Tokyo Art Book Fair 2013: Tag-Team Impressions

One of the interesting events of the September long weekend was the Tokyo Art Book Fair 2013, held at in Kyoto University of Art and Design, Tohoku University of Art and Design 
GAIEN CAMPUS. It’s just outside Jingu Park. It’s free to the public and open for 3 days.
Who holds this event?
For 5 straight years, a group called Zinesmate has been in charge. I read on the website that the main purpose of Zinesmate is to hold this show.
There is an application procedure which begins in early June for the show. According to the website, there are 300 participants from more than fifteen countries. Participants are Art publishers, independent publishers, self-publishers.
The location and the show:
The show is spread over two rooms and several rooms on each floor. There are also events like filming. It looked like you could buy drinks and snacks outside.

Arthur Huang, founder of Art Byte Critique, and fellow Tokyo Spidering exhibitor and I decided to tag-team blog about this event.

First Impressions?
Website’s press release stated that they expected over 5000 people over the three days. I believe it. A household emergency and work on Monday meant that I didn’t get to TABF until six p.m. I had an appointment at 7 but I thought I’d be able to breeze through. I honestly expected the show to be winding down and hardly anyone there. Instead, it was a complete crush!
I have mixed feelings about the crowds. I’m excited to see so many people interested in art books and handmade books. The numbers meant it was really hard to get a sense of what was available and it made browsing a bit difficult.

I went for the first time last year and I definitely remember how crowded it was. However, I was so thrilled to be surrounded by all kinds of books and to be among enthusiasts that I did not mind. I spent half a day at the Art Book Fair last year.

This year, I was prepared for the crowds especially since I went on the first day of the fair. I feel like it was even more crowded than last year. It was more challenging to talk with artists/publishers and also to take a look at books firsthand. After five years at Kyoto University of Art and Design, I definitely think that the fair has outgrown the space. In terms of content, I would say the range of books being exhibited was larger and a bit more experimental than last year. I also noticed that there were more booths that took a more creative approach to their booths to encourage interaction.

Outstanding Items?
A pop up book depicting four scenes of Through the Looking Glass. The cover ties up to make a 4-sided pop-up sculpture. It was stunning and, I think, well priced at 4800 yen.

I have to admit that I was a bit overwhelmed and I did not take notes of any particular publisher. The most impressive piece was photobook in which the pages were made out of wood. There were just four pages in this photobook and to open the pages, you had to take out two screws which closed the book. An interesting idea, but I was not tempted to purchase it.

What did you focus on?
Mostly photography books. I was interested in graphic novels, too. I saw a few that looked great, but none that hit me where I live.

I was primarily looking at the different types of books that people were making to give me ideas about bookmaking for my own studio practice. In addition to that, I was most interested in the room with printing resources such as papers, notebooks, and printing companies. I spent quite a bit of money last year, so I was not looking to buy any art books – unless one or two really spoke to me.

What did you buy?
Small copy of picture book 「くろのつのさがし」(Searching for the Black Horn) by Naomi Ichiba, for 600 yen. The book looks laser printed. The original work is oil painting. Stapled binding.
Moon. Small hand-bound book of moon landscapes printed on washi.
Tottori Sand Dunes Sewn binding, BW prints. I got a free postcard that I adore. I discovered Junko-san near the end. She also had photos for sale but I had not time to go through them. A4 size/3000 yen per print.
Mini-zine of an Tomoka Suganuma. She reacreates Showa scenes. Her zine was like a mini-portfolio of her work. I bought her zine because she is in the Art Triennial this year, like you, Arthur.

I did not end up buying any art books this year. I think that I was a bit overwhelmed at the crowds and the variety of books. There were a few booths that I wanted to take a closer look at, but every time I went back, there was a crowd and I could not easily handle the samples.
I spent all my money in the printing resources room. I bought two packs of pastel colored tracing paper for my drawings from Kami No Hikidashi. I also bought a few notebooks with the spiral binding in the corner from Insatsu Kakou Ren. To get myself motivated to make my own book and zines, I bought Little Press! Zine! Free Paper! from グラフィック社/デザインのひきだし

So THAT’S what was in that room! I saw sign that said, “Printing” but when I walked in I couldn’t really figure out what was going on in the thirty seconds before I had to leave or be late for my appointment. I would really have liked to see more book making resources and materials. Maybe that is beyond the scope of this show?

What’s your takeaway from this?
Price point is really important. I saw a lot of great looking books but any of the really expensive books I ended up walking by. If I’m going to spend a lot of money, I want to spend some time looking at the book. I didn’t have that kind of time. Anything over 3000 yen pretty much got skipped over no matter how stunning.
I was definitely drawn to the books that look hand-made. My purchases were hand-made or semi-hand made/ inkjet hand-bound books for around 500 yen. I’m liking the combination of tech and hand craft. They were tiny things smaller than post card size. But at 500 yen/ item, I was really willing to take a chance after a quick look. Plus the small size is handy for crowded spaces.

I also tended to buy more stuff from the sellers who talked to me. But to be fair, this was near the end of the fair and they had to be exhausted.

I agree that price point is really important and I would say that under ¥3000 makes it easier for impulsive purchases. Another thing that I found important was putting together a clean table design. Some of the tables were a bit too overwhelming which I can understand if you are a fine art publisher with many titles. I tended to steer away from those since those are titles than can be more easily discovered in bookstores or on the internet. For individual or teams of artists, I tended towards the tables that were simple in design. The focus was on a few different titles or works rather than a wide selection of titles or products.

In terms of buying work, I like to smaller books which are handy for storing as reference and also they make great gifts for sending to friends overseas. For me, interactions with the artists almost inevitably leads me to purchasing something, especially if there is work at a price point of ¥1000 or less. Again, the crowds made it difficult to have much interactions. I wish that I had a chance to go back again and revisit the fair and spend more time at booths that drew my attention the first time around.

I would love to be able to take part in next year’s edition of the Tokyo Art Book Fair. Talking with another member of the Art Byte Critique, I think it would be fun to submit a booth application as Art Byte Critique and share a table with other book artists.

3 thoughts on “Tokyo Art Book Fair 2013: Tag-Team Impressions”

  1. I was thinking about your comment over on my blog, “One thing I noticed about the photography was a zine approach and the use of recycled looking paper.” I was looking through the book I bought about making your own zine, 自由に遊ぶDIYづくり this morning and it seems that the method of printing suggested was either color printer or copier which might reflect the DIY zine quality of a lot of works at the Art Book Fair. As you said, paper choice is an important factor in how the images look. It makes me realize how all factors in putting together a book need to be considered. One thing I miss in most of the books that I saw was texture inherent in the book – cover and pages.

    What I would like to see is more hand printed books with silkscreen, wood relief, or linocut. I only remember seeing a handful of books with those kind of books. Those type of books take more time and require additional equipment, but I think there is something fantastic about the tactile quality of hand-printed books.


    1. Agreed. That is really getting old school and really “art” book!

      Referencing our earlier discussion of price point, I would pay more money for that kind of book or zine. That much work starts leaving zine territory and becomes more like an artifact. I love that.


  2. I would really love to see more of that. Maybe even a photobook that has been handprinted in CMYK!

    I been steadily buying pieces of wood and linoleum for carving, but I haven’t gotten around to playing with those. I also bought some keshigomu to make stamps as a way of getting back into printing without committing to a whole piece of wood or linoleum. Sorting out what I want to make in book form has been the sticking point for me. Hopefully after Tokyo Spidering I will have time to explore bookmaking, printing, and bookbinding more thoroughly.


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