London Art Book Fair at the Whitechapel Gallery

Last week Cornerhouse Publications attended the London Art Book Fair at the Whitechapel Gallery. It was the third year of this annual Whitechapel event, and we were greatly looking forward to another successful promotional opportunity; one where we would have the chance to meet our colleagues and publishers, as well as have some direct contact with customers actually buying our books face to face – always a rewarding experience.

On Thursday morning we hired a van, loaded the books and headed down the M6, arriving at the Whitechapel with just enough time to set up the stand, put our glad rags on, and get in position for the onslaught of potential customers that were coming to the special preview. As always we had a really great selection of books to sell, and we were anticipating good sales. We weren’t disappointed.

One of the first people to visit our stand was Franz Koenig, son of Walther Koenig (the art bookseller, publisher and distributor based in Germany) and one of our client publishers. Franz also manages the Koenig shops at the Whitechapel and the Serpentine, so he was really interested in what we had brought to sell at the fair.  Franz was very complimentary about our book display and made some notes about titles that he may wish to order from us for the Frieze Art Fair next month (London, 13 – 16 October).

We had taken a number of rare and out of print photography titles which aroused a lot of interest and sold quickly. People were looking for rare and unusual items that they knew could not be purchased elsewhere, and they seemed happy to break their budget when they found them! Popular titles with visitors were A Brief History of Curating, Slavs and Tartars Presents Molla Nasreddin, the ever-popular Play Architecture playing cards (at just £8.00 these are a real bargain) and the Hayward Gallery’s Transmitter/Receiver book on collage.

One of the next visitors to the stand was graphic designer Malcolm Garrett, who took part in Cornerhouse’s Sublime exhibition curated by Andy Spinoza and Bev Bytheway in 1992. He was really surprised to see the catalogue which has been selling well again and snapped up two copies, plus another title Gagarin in Britain published by the British Council. He was really pleased to see Cornerhouse at the fair and was chatting with us about our forthcoming merger with The Library Theatre, and the exciting move to our new building in 2015. Very interesting stuff, we all agreed!

The next day, our colleagues from the Hayward Gallery dropped by first thing with a copy of the new Pipilotti Rist: Eyeball Massage catalogue, hot off the press. The exhibition opens this week at the Hayward (28 September 2011), and we put it in pride of place in the centre of our stand. We had lots of positive comments about the catalogue, such as, ‘beautifully produced’ and, ‘it looks like it will be a really great show: I have got to go!’ We anticipate this popular Swiss artist’s ‘comprehensive mid-career survey catalogue’ to sell really well.

Over the rest of the weekend we had many visitors to our stand, and sold lots of books. People are always so complimentary about the list of titles that we distribute and the varied and innovative client publishers that we work with. We had a chance to chat to our fellow competitors, to find out their trade news, and to catch up with our publisher clients – to find out about their new titles (Haunch of Venison have at least three in the pipeline) and generally use it as a great networking opportunity. The buoyant book sales were also a fantastic bonus for us, and we are already looking forward to next year’s London Art Book Fair with great anticipation.