The Cyclorama will be decked in more style and color than usual on Friday, as the second annual Boston Art Book Fair kicks off in the South End. The three-day celebration will shine spotlights on culture from the Boston area and beyond, plus pack plenty of panels and signings with book makers galore.
The unique art book conference is organized by Oliver Mak, a co-founder of the streetwear company Bodega who DJs under the moniker DJ Gucci Vuitton, and Randi Hopkins, an independent art curator in Boston since the late ’90s. Hopkins co-founded the Allston Skirt Gallery, penned weekly columns in the Boston Phoenix, and works as an organizer at the Institute of Contemporary Art.
We asked how they networked overlapping worlds and creative accomplices to bring their sophomore endeavor together.
What can we expect this year? What’s especially exciting to you?
OM: Boston Art Book Fair is a full weekend celebrating art in analog form with over 100 exhibitors from all over the place that range from activist fanzines to dissertations on obscure Swiss design. There’s a huge art install from PneuHaus courtesy of our friends Brek One and Redbull. We moved [the fair] to the gigantic Cyclorama space and are expecting to see over 7,000 people. We added a beer garden and have two full days of DJs and programming. I’m most excited about graphic design, so exhibitors like Draw Down, DAP/Artbook, and PROPS are where I’ll be going to get inspired. We curated everything as a survey of what elements for culture keep print alive.
RH: I’m excited about the expanded number of exhibitors we’re assembling in the Cyclorama this year, and the amazing variety of styles and the sheer creative energy they bring to our art book fair audience. A few that I’m especially looking forward to include Brooklyn-based art and fashion collective A.R.T.S.Y. Magazine, who are going to be doing interactive screen printing at their table, and artful indie food magazine pioneer Put A Egg On It, debuting a delicious new issue in Boston.
Why’s the Boston Art Book Fair important for the Boston area specifically?
OM: Art book fairs dissolve the walls that separate institutions and young independents, highbrow and lowbrow, internationally known and made at your home. It is the only place where you’ll find MIT and a zine maker from Allston exhibiting together. To remove the constraints of hierarchy and present great art projects together creates opportunities and relationships that benefit everyone. There’s a sense of discovery that everyone has as they engage with all these different exhibitors that cannot be replicated on a screen. We’re also bringing a large number of artists from all over the world to exhibit just for this fair.
RH: The Boston Art Book Fair opens up a fantastic, democratic, image- and idea-filled space for people who love to look, to make stuff, to read stuff, to listen to music, and share stories and browse and touch. We’re bringing ideas from every realm of creativity into one big free space. We hope it draws new culture-appreciators to the myriad kinds of things going on in the worlds of art and books in an accessible and hands-on way, excites art insiders with new finds and new friends, and provides a platform for makers from all over the world to bring their newest projects to Boston.
Do you have a favorite Boston-area publication?
OM: I’ve always collected the zines of Matt and Nick Zaremba. We’ve done a lot of art shows, starting with renegade loft parties in early 2000s through group shows at our own gallery (Fourth Wall Project ’08-’12). The crew behind Boston Art Review is amazing too. They stepped up coverage of the arts community with an exquisite print edition and video projects. I’m excited to see what they have for Issue 2, which is dropping soon.
RH: I’m a big fan of publications like Hassle and TIS books, whose artist/founders have strong ties to our great area art schools. I am also excited to see young Boston artists involved with book and zine making, including Emily Sheffer at Dust Collective and Olivia Park.
Are there any Boston artists you’re personally looking for?
OM: I love the biographical comic work of Dave Ortega. Photographer Adam Jason Cohen is in Chicago now, but he was a Boston artist whose work is in Vogue and in campaigns we work on through Bodega. From LA, I’m really excited to have Vacancy Projects in this year. I love what they showed at Beyond the Streets.
RH: Not to mention Hannah Burr and Sue Murad, Caleb Cole and Greer Muldowney, Karl Stevens, Chantal Zakari and Mike Mandel—and I know I’m going to meet artists who are new to me, to add to my list of favorites.
Will you [Mak] be spinning at the event as well?
OM: Yes! We worked really hard to get a diverse cross section of music for this event. The opening party has Yvng Pavl and Lunamariposa. We have DJs throughout, including Johnny Stevens, Slick Vick, Nightime Sunshine, and a couple more. I’m trying to stay away from DJing this one since there are so many voices and styles I want to give a platform to.
RH: This is really unique aspect of the Boston Art Book Fair—we have the best music! The DJs are incredible and nonstop, and we’ll also have a spoken word performance by Abdul Fattah Ismail/Extended Syllables, and a music and reading event by Publication Studio Hudson on the schedule in our Program Salon during the fair.
What’s the organization process for something like this?
OM: It’s a gigantic undertaking to organize this free, all-ages event. It would not be possible without the enthusiastic work from the entire staff of the Boston Center for the Arts and the good faith of our artists and sponsors. We started the show last year, and it was spread out through the Mills Gallery and a couple other spaces. We decided to unify everything by moving it to the Cyclorama and that almost doubled the amount of exhibitors, so we added a beer garden.
RH: This is a great collaboration between the generous spirit, deep roots in the art and music community, and peerless style of Oliver and Bodega and the depth of experience BCA brings to forefronting and supporting new art, in whatever forms it takes. As Oliver says, we started this together last year and have really learned by doing. One of the biggest things we learned last year was that there was a terrific appetite for this kind of experience here; we hope that bringing everyone together under our historic Cyclorama dome this year will add to the unique nature of the Boston Art Book Fair.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CHECK OUT BOSTONARTBOOKFAIR.COM.