By JAN GARDEN CASTRO September 11, 2023
When was the last time art made you think? Drew you in for a close-up look? Made you laugh out loud? Art on Paper did that for me and was friendly, affordable family fun that drew an international crowd to its inconvenient location on Pier 36. At the VIP opening on Thursday, September 7th, its Creative Director Nato Thompson whisked me through many small press, rare, and art booksellers, over 100 local and international exhibitors, printing demonstrations, free films, and special large installations by artists from Seattle, Iowa City, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and more.
Two highlights for me were the Dieu Donné and Purgatory Pie Press booths, in part, due to the longevity of these organizations and the collectability of their art. Sue Gosin is the Founder and Co-Chair of Dieu Donné, which has an opening for Jaz Graf (www.jazgraf.com), a diaspora artist, in its Brooklyn Navy Yard (www.dieudonne.org) location on September 12, 5-7 pm. Their Art on Paper booth showed art in a range of sizes, including three Ocean Books, 2003 by installation artist Joan Hall (www.joanhallstudio.com); three paper book molds studded with sand and tiny glass and bead shards from Costa Rica; Cascais, Portugal; and Water Island St. Thomas do not open and symbolize both the climate crisis, especially in diaspora countries, and history books which leave out women or people of color (BIPOC).
Purgatory Pie Press (www.purgatorypiepress.com) is a 40-year-old press run by letterpress printmaker Dikko Faust and artistic director Esther K. Smith. Their art is collected by everyone from The Metropolitan Museum and MoMA to Azerbaijan’s Miniature Book Museum. One of their artists, named Bob & Roberta Smith, currently has a show at the Tate in London. Esther was folding little books to give away - Esther’s How to MAKE BOOKS book is witty and affordable. Humor and love go hand in hand at this Press!
During the fair’s first hour, I dropped by the Tuleste Factory design booth (www.tulestefactory.com) and witnessed two of the first sales—works by Lyora Pissarro, The Miracle of Matamorphosis and Unfolding Wings of the Heart. Pissarro’s paintings stand at the focal point between history and the imminent future, the realized and the imagined. Each work in this series is sold with a unique NFT, a light art projection mapped design by the Allaux Brothers.
Part of the fair’s charm was the easy way that exhibitors were excited to visit each other’s booths and exchange news and views. I happened to meet Suzy Sabla, chief executive officer of www.artnovel.co , in town from Vancouver, who told me her stunning jacket was handmade in Ghana and bought in Harlem. I didn’t get enough photos of the colorful people at the fair, including an artist from Seattle with candycane-pink long hair in ribbons of curls.
Art on Paper Creative Director Nato Thompson told me he’s proud of the book fair, the 3-D installations, the participatory projects, and the print demonstrations. He also runs an online school and an NFT digital art business.
Art on Paper’s Director, Kelly Freeman, gave WHITEHOT this exclusive:
What is new and important for this year's fair?
This year’s Art on Paper has many exciting moments for patrons. Under the creative direction of Nato Thompson, we’ve managed to bring together an unparalleled program of special projects, hands-on experiences, and thought-provoking installations. We're hosting our inaugural BOOKSMART FAIR in collaboration with the Center for Book Arts. We've also re-introduced the curated Flat Files focus section, highlighting printmakers from around the globe. Additionally, we have several impactful installations and workshops, including live printing sessions, darkroom experiences, and explorations into the transformative impact of art.
Who is your audience?
We attract both seasoned art enthusiasts and newcomers.
What is your favorite part of your job?
The most gratifying part of my role as Fair Director is to witness the convergence of different forms of art, the artists who create them, and the community that appreciates them. There's a magic moment when the fair opens, and all our planning and hard work transforms into a living, breathing celebration of art. That's absolutely rewarding for me.
Has the quality of exhibiting artists and galleries changed this year?
This year we're proud to feature a stellar assembly of over 100 leading galleries, each dedicated to showcasing the versatility of paper as a medium. We’ve drawn participation from esteemed institutions and cutting-edge artists, which speaks volumes about the caliber of this year’s fair.
How much has Art on Paper grown since it began?
We've evolved into a must-visit event that coincides with the esteemed Armory Arts Week. Our 9th edition is shaping up to be our most ambitious yet, a testament to how far we’ve come in promoting paper-based art.
Do you travel much for this job?
Yes, travel is a significant part of the job, and each journey enriches my understanding of the global art landscape, and informs how we shape Art on Paper each year.
Why/how do personal connections play an important role?
Personal connections are at the heart of the art world. They serve as bridges between artists, galleries, and patrons. By fostering a community around paper-based art, we offer a platform for artists to be discovered and for collectors to find art that speaks to them. These relationships, built on mutual respect and admiration, are essential for the growth and dynamism of the art ecosystem we're nurturing.
Thanks to Nato Thompson, Kelly Freeman, and the fair’s PR director Sarah Usher (SU PR, Inc.), who all excel at what they do! WM
Jan Garden Castro (www.jancastro.com) is author/editor of six books, including The Art & Life of Georgia O’Keeffe, Contributing Editor for Sculpture Magazine, and contributor for American Book Review. She has a major essay in a new edition of The Handmaid’s Tale (www.suntup.press/Atwood).view all articles from this author