5 Philadelphia Art Book Fair recommendations

The annual event will take place in Kensington this Friday and Saturday.

Courtesy of Marianne Dages

The Philadelphia Art Book Fair is back tomorrow, at Twelve 27 (1227 N. Fourth Street, near Girard). With more than 75 exhibitors, shoppers will be able to peruse books that span various art forms.

If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, Keith Yahrling thinks you should treat the fair he helped coordinate like a record store. There’ll be collections that focus on a single artist’s work, but also the work of collectives, and rare DIY publications. That’s why Yahrling, a master printer and lab manager at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, mentioned record store vibes. Browse; thumb through items; ask questions, he advised, noting that roughly 80 percent of exhibitors are artists themselves.

“There aren’t many opportunities to engage with physical copies anymore,” he said. “What you’re holding at the exhibitor’s table might be made by someone standing on the other side.”

Philadelphia Art Book Fair

If you're looking for summertime reads, seeking new magazines or hardbacks for your coffee table, or just trying to upgrade the holdings in your personal library, you might want to check out the 75+ exhibitors at this annual, two-day event. Friday hours: 12pm–8pm. Saturday hours: 10am–6 pm.

Where: Twelve 27 at 1227 N. 4th Street

When: May 5, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. to May 6, 2017 at 6:00 p.m.

How much: free

The Art Book Fair is co-organized by The Print Center with the PPAC, and produced by Little Giant. Many of the exhibitors hail from Philly or NYC, but Yahrling estimates that a dozen or so states will be represented at the fair, plus two vendors will be visiting from abroad.

Staffers at both the PPAC and The Print Center selected books for Billy Penn that they’re especially excited to see. Here’s what they chose and why.

The TIS02 set, stacked

© Carl Wooley
© Carl Wooley

TIS02 by various artists

four-book set for $60

John Caperton, Jensen Bryan curator at The Print Center: “Each year it is always great to see what new releases are going to be at the fair. TIS Books, a small publisher from Brooklyn, always has something interesting to share. In past years they have brought amazing new books by photographers John Gossage and Justine Kurland. This year they are bringing their second collection of books by the four photographers who founded the imprint: Tim Carpenter, J. Carrier, Nelson Chan and Carl Wooley.”

rani cover
Courtesy of Saleem Ahmed
Saleem Ahmed

Rani Road by Saleem Ahmed


Yahrling: “The photographs in Rani Road show a beautifully quiet journey through Udaipur, India, the city where Saleem’s family is from. I’m drawn to their solitude and their ability to conjure contemplation.”

Martha's Quarterly, Issue 3, Spring 2017.  "Skyglow and the Desert Fox." Edited and designed by Tammy Nguyen.

Martha's Quarterly, Issue 3, Spring 2017. 'Skyglow and the Desert Fox.' Edited and designed by Tammy Nguyen.

Courtesy of Passenger Pigeon Press
Martha's Quarterly, Issue 3, Spring 2017.  "Skyglow and the Desert Fox." Edited and designed by Tammy Nguyen.

Martha's Quarterly, Issue 3, Spring 2017. 'Skyglow and the Desert Fox.' Edited and designed by Tammy Nguyen.

Courtesy of Passenger Pigeon Press

Martha’s Quarterly (indie magazine)

$25 for a one-year subscription— pick up your first issue at the fair, next three sent by mail

Michelle Wallace, youth education assistant at the PPAC: “Last year Tammy Nguyen came to PABF with a table full of beautiful, intricate artist books that use layers of letterpress, woodblock, silkscreen, collage, pencil and ink often cut into specific shapes. This year she comes back to PABF with a new endeavor, Passenger Pigeon Press, which houses Martha’s QuarterlyMartha’s Quarterly is a collaborative quarterly subscription of four handmade artist books a year, with the goals of presenting urgent topics not covered by mainstream media or widely archived by cultural institutions. Each release is specifically designed for the content it contains, I’m looking forward to seeing the Spring 2017 release which will debut at PABF this weekend.”

Courtesy of Jeffrey Stockbridge
"Mary," a photograph in Stockbridge's collection.

"Mary," a photograph in Stockbridge's collection.

Jeffrey Stockbridge

Kensington Blues by Jeffrey Stockbridge


Elizabeth F. Spungen, executive director at The Print Center: “It has been a pleasure watching Jeffrey Stockbridge’s project Kensington Blues come to life over the last several years. Jeffrey is both an amazing artist and a wonderful member of the photography community in Philadelphia. Kensington Blues is his portrait of the community along Kensington Avenue. It’s both an inspiring and difficult body of work and I am very excited to see the book for this project, which he will have at this year’s fair.”


Inside 'Objects of Unknown Use'

Courtesy of Marianne Dages
Courtesy of Marianne Dages

Objects of Unknown Use by Marianne Dages

$200 hardcover, $150 softcover

Josh Brilliant, education director at the PPAC: “I am really excited to see Huldra Press’ new book, Objects of Unknown Use. Marianne is such an incredible book maker and artist. Her use of traditional bookmaking tools, like the letterpress, coupled with her conceptual framework consistently produces fascinating works of art.”

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