Artist’s books and the present and future of book collecting

by leslierankowfinearts

I LOVE ARTIST’S BOOKS. IF I HAD THE FINANCIAL WHEREWITHAL AND TIME, THAT WOULD BE AN AREA OF COLLECTING FOR ME. THE BOOKS ARE CREATIVE AND INVENTIVE AND REPRESENT AN INTIMATE REFLECTION OF AN ARTIST’S THINKING AND AESTHETIC. DOUG FLAMM, BOOKSELLER AND EXPERT AT URSUS BOOKS, THE ANTIQUARIAN AND ART REFERENCE LIBRARY RESOURCE FOR COLLECTORS, DEALERS AND GALLERISTS, SHARES HIS KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE OF THIS SPECIALIZED AND INTRIGUING AREA OF PUBLISHING.

DOUG, TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE ARTIST’S BOOKS THAT ARE YOUR FAVORITES AND THE HISTORY OF LIVRES D’ARTISTE IN GENERAL.

With an artist’s book, the artist is very much involved in the actual design and realization of the publication. Originally , livres d’artiste were very rarified publications that often included original works of art: prints, lithographs or etchings by the artist.

Ed Ruscha turned this category on its head. He changed the definition of what an artist’s book is. He conceived of ideas and projects using the commonplace technology of off-set printing. He selected very banal subjects (as he does in his paintings and works on paper) – parking lots, gas stations, swimming pools, and  reproduced these images in a rudimentary way that parallels his artistic genre. In so doing, he treated extraordinary objects that don’t fall within the traditions of livres d’artiste but a value and vitality very much its own and liberated this form of artistic invention.

Ursus has a wonderful collection, at present, of all of his artist books, all first editions, many of which are signed, and it’s exhilarating to see them all together.

HOW MUCH ARE YOU ASKING FOR IT?

$125,000

HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE A NEW COLLECTOR WHO WANTS TO BUILD AN ART BOOK COLLECTION TO BEGIN? WHAT SHOULD THE CRITERIA BE? WHAT SHOULD ONE BE AWARE OF WHEN ASSEMBLING A COLLECTION?

Trust your instincts. Determine which artists are the most interesting to you on an aesthetic an intellectual level whether you can buy their work or not. If text is important, focus on that. If you gravitate to images, that would dictate your choices. Start to get a sense of what kind of book you like.

Ursus Books helps people to buy individual books and also build book collections. We also sell collections or libraries. Actually, we have a remarkable contemporary collection right now with all the key books from Pollock through today. We have extended relationships with our customer base that might include providing our expertise on books coming up at auction, and bidding for the client who would like to remain private or doesn’t have the time.

DO YOU FEEL THAT THE ART BOOK MARKET IS GAINING IN MOMENTUM, STATIC OR IN A DOWNTURN BECAUSE OF OUR SHIFT, IN SO MANY AREAS, TO THE DIGITAL WORLD?

The book market is in a state of transition with interesting changes constantly in effect and it is hard to predict what will be interesting tomorrow. That being said, books have a staying power and older books that have weathered time will always be objects of interest and often value.

The great pleasure for me is the dialogue. It is really fun to work with someone. It’s not just about the books but very much about the interaction with people when putting together a collection. The internet does curtail or at least limit the human interaction between the antiquarian and the collector and the advantage of the interaction is that it provides the sense of the individual collector, the nuances of their likes and dislikes, the pleasure of collecting.

THANK YOU  SO MUCH, DOUG- YOU HAVE OPENED THE DOOR TO AN AREA OF COLLECTING THAT I AM CERTAIN WILL INFORM EXISTING BOOK COLLECTORS AND INSPIRE NEW ONES. DO VISIT THE ANTIQUARIAN BOOK FAIR AT THE PARK AVENUE ARMORY IN NEW YORK TO MEET DOUG IN PERSON AND SEE A SMALL SELECTION OF THE WONDERFUL COLLECTION AT URSUS BOOKS.

NEXT TIME, WE WILL EXPLORE ART AS AN ALTERNATIVE INVESTMENT WITH WIN SMATHERS, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF HUNTER ASSOCIATIONS, AN INVESTMENT FIRM THAT PROVIDES BOTH ADVISORY AND INVESTMENT SERVICES TO INDIVIDUALS.  ART COLLECTING HAS PROVEN TO BE ECONOMY-PROOF RESISTING THE DOWNSWINGS AND UPTURNS OF THE MARKET RATHER HEALTHILY IN RECENT TIMES.  I AM VERY PLEASED THAT WIN SMATHERS, AN EXPERT IN FINANCIAL PLANNING, WILL SHARE HIS VIEWS ON THIS SUBJECT. PLEASE JOIN US IN SEEING WHAT WIN HAS TO SAY AND DO ASK ANY AND ALL QUESTIONS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE HIM TO ANSWER.

UNTIL THEN….

THANKS FOR READING THIS!

LESLIE