A brief note about my novel: Thanks to the efforts of my agents (now celebrating their 20th anniversary) my manuscript for Good For Nothing is in the hands of a goodly number of editors at various publishers both in NYC and in London. It is also being considered as potential material for a movie adaptation by members of a production company.
I have an exhibition up which features the collaborative work of myself and illustrator Jeffrey Johnson. Here's one of the page spreads printed large for display purposes.
Central Booking is a gallery for books in DUMBO, Brooklyn, NYC. Its focus is on artist's books and prints and their integration into the larger art world. They exhibit the breadth of the various approaches to the form, anything from an inexpensive pamphlet printed on a copy machine, to a letterpress codex integrating words and images, to a sculptural book object. Its stated intention is to be a space where artist’s books from established and emerging artists can exhibit in one place and on a continual basis.
Maddy Rosenberg and Elena Costelian at opening
Maddy Rosenberg was born in Brooklyn and divides her time between New York City and Europe, maintaining an active international exhibition and curatorial career. In September, 2009 she opened Central Booking, a two gallery space in DUMBO, Brooklyn, Rosenberg’s work has appeared in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout the U.S. and Europe, including recently a solo of her artist’s books at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Brooklyn Public Library in New York, solo of her paintings at Cheryl McGinnis Gallery and a two-person at Wade Wilson Art. Her artist’s books can be seen in numerous public collections, including National Museum of Women in the Arts, MoMA, Brooklyn Museum, Fogg Museum, Yale University, Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Gallery, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Austrian National Library and Salzburg Museum.
The following exchange took place initially for an article in JAB 28 (the Journal of Artists Books). If your interested you can find this interview as part of a much longer discussion about the distribution of Artists Books. My questions appear after the BG and Maddy's responses after the MR.
BG- When exactly did you open your doors?
MR-September 2009, though it was in the planning for a couple of years. It seemed organically the next step in my life as a curator, to have a space of my own.
BG- Central Booking is interesting because it is a gallery, specifically geared to the book form. How many titles do you carry and how many book artist’s do you represent? Who is your target audience?
MR- Central Booking is a different model than what’s become the convention. I believe in following my own way, not following trends. The gallery was formed from my curatorial vision. The artists I represent include those who would categorize themselves as book artists to those who make books as part of a larger art making practice. I have a largely inclusive and expansive idea of the book and do represent, therefore, many artists working in all sorts of media as well as experimental forms. I have at least 120 artists at any given time whose work I represent on an ongoing basis, and most of them have multiple works in the gallery. I have a dual gallery space, Gallery I displays work as an exhibition but is set up to function more as a shop- work is purchased and then replaced by other work, whereas Gallery II has more traditional rotating exhibitions based on a series of themes on art and sciences (2 in the fall, 2 in the spring). I bring several of the book artists from Gallery I into these exhibitions, as an opportunity to show more of the range of their work. It also serves to integrate artist’s books into the broader art world. I have several audiences, the book arts community has been behind me from central booking’s inception, the art and science community has discovered and adopted the gallery, and a more general art going public has been building up as an audience as well- through street traffic, word of mouth and publicity.
BG- Can you talk a little more about how books are arranged? Is there a division between artists’ books, graphic novels, and periodicals? Or do you not carry all of these?
MR- The artist’s book area is arranged as a gallery with display cases, shelves and racks, free standing work and wall work. The only periodical I carry is Central Booking’s magazine. I focus on art work. But I do want to be comprehensive when it comes to the book arts, so I carry a few artist’s book publishers and have everything from a $1 zine to unique sculptural book work.
BG- What is the square footage of your shop? How much space is devoted to display of books/zines?
MR- The entire gallery space is about 1200 sq. ft. and half of it is for artist’s books and prints.
BG- Can you characterize the neighborhood around your store? What is the mix of patrons?
MR- The neighborhood has become very gentrified. It was once industrialized, then artist’s lofts with no amenities and now there are many strollers and tourists around. The patrons are a mix of people who are specifically coming to the gallery and those exploring the neighborhood (many foreign tourists, as DUMBO is listed as an art neighborhood in their guidebooks), locals who are professionals and others who live throughout Brooklyn.
BG- How do find the books you sell? What percentage of work do you sell via the internet?
MR- No problem finding artist’s who make bookworks. I have been curating for years and I do book art myself, so I already know hundreds of artists. And many find me, too. There aren’t that many outlets for their work so naturally I am swamped with inquiries. Right now, I am adding artists rarely. If it’s someone special who does work that is different from the work I already carry and they bring a new dimension to the conversation, then I will add them to my roster of artists. But at this point, I am trying to limit the artists I add in order to concentrate on selling and promoting those I already carry. So far, the only item I’ve really sold much of via the internet is the magazine. Currently, sales of the work come from the gallery, fairs and appointments. I have been waiting until our online gallery was more complete to promote it, though (it took quite awhile to gather information and load 120 or so artist’s pages). I do intend to do some publicity focusing on the website this summer and to have featured artists on the website, as well.
BG- Are there other similar projects that inspired you? What was the initial mission you set for yourself, and has that mission changed over time? If so, why do you think that is?
MR- Well, honestly, what inspired me was that I saw a real void that needed to be filled. The book world had been marginalized, though now that so many more prominent mainstream artists are working with the form and schools are full of book arts programs, the timing seems ripe for a gallery focusing on book arts and its place as an art form. My personal inspiration has long been the Cabinet of Curiosities. Since Central Booking has only been in existence a year, my mission hasn’t changed much at this point. I have been able to institute my full program: the physical gallery, the full website, gallery events that relate to the integration of books into the art world and various art forms into the book world, publishing a quarterly magazine that is intellectual yet accessible, focusing on issues pertaining to book arts as well as a catalog for Gallery II exhibitions, bringing the work to fairs and just building an international audience.
BG- A struggling national economy puts a lot of pressure on arts organizations. How has the economy affected you? Do you feel the influence of free market forces in the arts is a concern for arts retailers?
MR- I am used to the life of an artist, you have good years, you have bad years. For me it has always been about making enough money to survive to do what I want. I keep my expenses as low as I can and I have always managed. Central Booking is an art project for me- and I always have to be more ambitious and more demanding with each project I do. I have found there are still pockets of money here and there, depending on the income sources of public collections and private collectors. Private collectors continue to collect, they just collect less expensive work.
BG- Is encouraging the production and distribution of books, zines and other democratic multiples, which operate outside the gallery system, an inherently political or social act? Do you have a specific political or social stance? If so, what is it?
MR- The problem with the art world, as with the country’s culture in general, is that as the commercial side expanded and took over rather than staying in its corner as a piece of the whole, a desire for work that would appeal to the least common denominator became predominant. A blanding out occurred and the art world became a frenzy of driving up prices rather than supporting quality art work. I think going my own way, focusing always on substantive work first and then trying to sell it, is an irreverent act itself in the face of a hyper consumerist culture. The capitalist system values the actual makers of things the least, as an artist I was at the bottom of the chain. Now that I run a gallery that people are paying attention to, I am much higher in the power structure. It is difficult to say, then, that I am being subversive, unless the ultimate subversion is from within. By ignoring trends it seems I am setting them. A focus of my program from the beginning was to give higher profile to the many artists who have skirted around the art world, building significant careers from genuine work and yet struggling for a broader recognition and, frankly, income from their work. I have come to see that I am tapping into in the public a desire and need for substance. I want to create a space where intelligent thought and discourse takes place and those interested in it can find a home once again.
BG- Many outlets build a community and educate an audience; and then curate based on the interests of those who are active participants. Do you feel one of your projects is nurturing culture that creates a market for the work you carry?
MR- I don’t feel I have to, I see that culture is already there. It is true that there are those who don’t know about book arts and are excited by coming across it for the first time. But there is a vast hunger out there for thoughtful quality work of all kinds. I am overwhelmed by the response of those coming from all corners of the world who love my vision. I have to say, this has been my biggest surprise, as I did think it would take time to win a larger audience over. I honestly was surprised at how many artgoers and art professionals take true delight in the work and the environment. They have returned repeatedly to exhibitions and events to become a part of the gallery’s community.
BG- Do you think of yourself as locally-centered; Or as an outlet for national and international work?
MR- I am definitely international, both in the scope of the artists I work with and collectors I deal with. I do have a local community, though, as mentioned above, that does frequent and sustain the gallery as a center for intellectual dialog, not just as a space to see and buy art.
BG- Can you talk about your curatorial prerogatives? And is there an artist, artwork, or strategy that has been particularly successful for you?
MR- My tastes are expansive, I look for the best in all artwork, from those that are well made and utilize traditional techniques to new media. I’m attracted to artists who push to the edge, whether it is with materials or concept. As a curator, I like to build spaces with artists’ work, each piece needs to work alone and as part of the greater environment. I use the whole room, floor, wall, ceilings and interior space. There are particular artists who sell well and I can usually tell when looking at the work that they have a specific appeal on many levels, but I don’t chose the work for that reason.