Anna Horton interviews Max Schumann of Printed Matter



by Anna Horton

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It is quite an understatement to say, “The book and publishing industry is one big monopolization.” We live in an age where technology has taken over, and we expect to find the latest issue of Vogue in the App Store. My question is: what will happen to physical books in the next ten years, and where does that leave stores like Printed Matter, that support independent artist books? Will we soon download galleries on our iPad? I admit, that would be pretty cool but overall society would be at a loss. We would lose the beauty of interacting with art. Last Saturday, I sat down with Max Schumann, the current director of Printed Matter, to discuss the growth, the history, and the importance of artist books.

“The last five years Printed Matter has grown rapidly–doubling in business. The success is attributed to the Art Book Fair, which takes place at MoMa PS1 with an attendance of twenty-seven thousand people and three hundred different exhibitors. Overall, the artists and publishers are quite young, and we have seen a resurgence of young artists who are interested in publishing artist books. Two years ago, we premiered the LA Art Book Fair, which was occupied with twenty-five thousand people. We have turned the corner from a small organization to a medium- sized organization and that has been dramatic in the last five years.”

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“Artist books provide an alternative space for art, to kind of, be produced and distributed. The utopian vision of the store, specifically to co-founder Lucy Lippard, is to get your art in books from airports, supermarkets, or the grocery store, and stuff like that. This is not necessarily something new but it is an avant-garde impulse to take art off the pedestal, out of the museum, and fold it back into everyday life. The book serves as a perfect vehicle for that because of its ubiquity. There areĀ a lot of things about the book that make it an interesting space for the artists to work within because it is performative and interactive. However, it is very personal because it can only be read by one person at a time, and it can be read and interacted within one’s own context.”

“There is in the context of experimental art practice, from the sixties and seventies, an urge to shift away from conventional fetishized art that is dependent on the luxury market. The growth of performance, multi-media, and conceptual art shifted the focus from the object to the process and information of an art-piece. The artist book, as a form of media art, can publish the same artwork many times making perfect to circulate and circumvent outside the system.”

Talking to Max, anyone could obtain a deeper knowledge of the importance and uniqueness of the artist book industry. Rather than going into a large bookstore and choosing between a homogenous selection of books filtered by what would sell best, go into Printed Matter and support the independent artists. Really, it is up to consumers to keep the tradition of buying physical books.