The first Annual Melbourne Art Book Fair

It was a good thing, this Melbourne Art Book Fair. It had the right mix of serious people and funny people, old and young, arty and not so arty. There were plenty of little performances, readings, signings and launches throughout the weekend, but it never felt lame. Thousands of people came through, but it never felt stressful. Or maybe I was just in a good mood the whole time. Who can tell?

I was there with The Good Copy. We’re a writing studio, but we also publish things and have a shop. Our stall was a good vibe, but then again, so was everyone else’s, even the guy across from us who made everyone put on white gloves before touching his books. I’d give him the thumbs up from time to time, and he’d nod back approvingly.

Melbourne_art_book_monster_children1Words and Photos by By Max Olijnyk

This is the front door of the NGV, the site of the great fair. In my excitement, I forgot to take a photo of our ‘tradesman’s’ entrance through the North Mousehole, the name of which was the source of much merriment and innuendo over the course of the weekend – at least to me.



Here’s Rach at our stall. We were going for a sort of rock concert merch stand/garage sale vibe.



Our neighbours included the friendly faces of Dan and Justine from Perimeter Books, an actual art book publisher and distributor. Here’s Dan setting up.



Andy and Sarah from Hillvale help themselves to some goods from one of the most popular stands of the fair: New York’s Printed Matter. And when I say help themselves, I mean happily purchase.



I was all nervous about meeting these New York bigwigs and in the end it was Shannon! Shannon used to live in Melbourne and often came into the shop I worked in. What a fascinating history we have!



Abby, Tristan and Josh were womanning and manning a shared stand between The Blackmail and Josh’s new book Basta! Again, I would’ve loved to buy a copy of Josh’s book, but didn’t. I actually did buy a copy of The Blackmail, but Tristan’s Paypal machine wasn’t working, so … you know.



Ed and Rob had a Heavytime stand full of all kinds of books by people I think are great. One in particular, He’s Got a Nug by Benjamin Lichtenstein is the funniest thing I have read all year. Ben has been collecting amusing/surreal headlines and paragraphs from newspapers and sites for a while, and the book is simply a collection of them, plus a few pictures from his latest photography show. It is truly worth anyone’s while searching out. I have a copy and return to it often.



Here’s friendly chap and ex-Adelaide Hills resident Josh Petherick at the World Food Books stand. Aside from his motley assortment of interesting art titles, Josh and co boast a strongly branded blue drawstring backpack, which stood out from the sea of totes on offer. Bravo from one merch man to another.



Even the NGV were doing their own totes. Ai Weiwei posed with one around his neck on Instagram, don’t you know. A guy from the gallery came round and gave us all one of the bags on Sunday afternoon – a classy touch I appreciated. I also took them up on the offer of taking home any of the cardboard furniture from our stalls. ‘This will make a nice outdoor setting!’ I called to all and sundry as I wheeled out a stacked trolley on Sunday night. It got a few laughs and covered my shame nicely.



I didn’t make it to many of the scheduled events during the fair, but stumbled upon Xavier from Dawn Press putting on what seemed to be a live photocopying display. I wouldn’t have thought it was a spectator sport, but colour me wrong – the crowd was mesmerised.



Here’s our stall again, busy as usual.



In stark contrast to us, Rachel and co at neighbouring Assemble Papers had a very select few publications on offer, which made their cardboard stall look really simple and stylish. We, on the other hand, just brought the whole shop.



On the day we were setting up, Sinead and I went to the gallery cafe for some lunch. As an Indian guy served us our coffees, I said, ‘Ah, long blacks all round,’ an inadvertently racist comment on an otherwise pleasant afternoon. The guy seemed cool when he came back, so no harm done.



It was really nice to be in such an amazing building, I must say. It made me feel important and safe. So there you have it, the first ever Melbourne Art Book Fair. Hopefully it becomes an annual thing and we can enter through the Northern Mouse Hole again soon. Thanks to Megan and everyone at the NGV for putting on such a cool weekend.

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