April 23, 2006

New York Antiquarian Book Fair

The event that book lovers have been waiting for is here! Once again, the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue at 67th Street is host to the New York Antiquarian Book Fair.

This year's fair, the 46th hosted by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA), is bigger and better than ever. 195 Dealers from around the world are exhibiting and there is truly something for every taste and every budget. From illuminated manuscripts to modern first editions, children's books, autographs, fine bindings, maps, natural history books and livres d'artiste, one can easily spend hours looking at the vast selection of printed material.

Having been in the rare book business full time for eight years, and still maintaining an interest in the field and my own personal collection of pochoir colored books and albums, the New York Antiquarian Book Fair is always something of a homecoming for me. It is great fun to see old friends and the exquisite material they save to take to this prestigeous event.

My favorite booths? I would have to say that Ursus Rare Books has a superb presentation of books from various periods and all of very fine quality. They had already been written up in the New York Times for a unique collection of original costume watercolors by George Barbier. The "King" of the field of Modern Illustrated books, Irving Zucker, showcased a complete set of Iliazd books, very rare and very beautiful and priced accordingly. Donald Heald did not disappoint with his gorgeous albums of birds, flowers and animals. New to me was the Swedish gallery of Börje Bengtsson with a fresh and fascinating collection of Pop Art ephemera. I also thought Marilyn Braiterman's selection of Art Nouveau and Art Deco books and albums was outstanding.

Just for fun, I found a group of 5 hand-decorated playing cards by Sonia Delaunay at Thomas A. Goldwasser Rare Books, a First Edition "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone", in paperback with a dedication by J.K. Rowlings for $10,600 at Peter Harrington, and finally a pair of homemade fortune teller wheels for Victorian parlour games and courtship for $1,750 at James Cummins Bookseller.

Opening night of the book fair was a benefit for the New York Public Library. The fair runs through Sunday, April 23rd, but if you miss it, don't despair! Mark your calendars for September 15-17, 2006 when the ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) hosts a new bookfair at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. It should be fabulous!

April 15, 2006

Pink Martini

My most recent music discovery is the Oregon-based "Pink Martini", founded in 1994 by Harvard educated pianist Thomas M. Lauderdale. His vision created a "little orchestra" that combines the rhythms of a 1940's dance band with the structure of classical music. The group has a widely diverse following and has toured throughout the US and Europe playing every venue from solo gigs in smoky bars to accompanying symphony orchestras in concert halls.

Their debut album, the self-produced "Sympathique", is a wonderful multi-lingual confection of classics with a distinctive contemporary edge. The star of the album is the title song based on the poem "Hôtel" by Guillaume Apollinaire and sung to perfection by the lead vocalist China Forbes.

Originally a 12 piece ensemble, the band has now grown to 15 pieces plus a full orchestra.

"Hang on Little Tomato", produced in 2004, is a more polished and mature sound. It also expands upon their international base featuring songs in a variety of languages, including Japanese, and dance rhythms from samba to bolero.

This diversity, carefully planned but not stilted, romantic but not mushy, with great musicality and sophistication, makes Pink Martini a group well worth checking out.

April 08, 2006

Edvard Munch at MoMA

For those of you who haven't visited the "New" Museum of Modern Art yet, here's a good reason to go. For one more month, MoMA is presenting a fabulous retrospective of the paintings and graphics of Edvard Munch.

Although probably best known for his painting "The Scream", stolen 2 years ago from the Munch Museum in Oslo in a brazen daytime heist, this exhibition clearly shows that he was far more than a one-painting phenomenon.

Munch was born on a farm outside Kristiania (now Oslo) in 1863. His biography reads like a real-life soap opera with everything from losing his beloved mother to consumption at age 5, a heart-breaking love affair with a married woman, institutionalizations for alcoholism and nervous breakdowns, a bout with Spanish Influenza, and temporary blindness. The emotional impact of these events is clearly evident in his work. One can feel the quiet grief of "Death in the Sick Room", 1893, the sexual longing in "Summer Night's Dream (The Voice)", 1893, the angst of "The Storm", 1893, and the melancholia of "Despair", 1892 (pictured here). The tension is raised to an even higher level in the powerful "Madonna", 1894-5, and the terror of "The Scream" which, though not hanging in the exhibition, was in the mind's eye of every visitor.

All is not horror and tragedy in this show. Munch's later works were less explicitly psychological but still accurate portrayals of the human condition. His "Self Portrait with Cigarette" is a masterpiece in self-expression as is "Self-Portrait Between the Clock and the Bed", 1940-42.

Well represented were his graphic works - drawings in pencil and charcoal, as well as lithographs, aquatints and many beautiful woodcuts. Munch discovered early in his career that he had a facility for prints and that they offered greater profitability and more room for experimentation than oil painting. He continued to make prints until he died with "Kiss in the Field" an exquisitely simple yet powerful woodcut done in 1943.

Edvard Munch's works are not pretty, feel-good, pictures, but they are visually and emotionally stunning and should not be missed!

April 04, 2006

The Master of the Corset - Henri Boutet

For years I have loved the work of the Belle Epoque artist Henri Boutet (1851-1919). His portrayals of pretty women ranging from young shop girls to sophisticated ladies eptiomize the genre "la Parisienne". In fact, his ability to capture their qualities of coquettishness and femininity earned him the nickname "le Petit maître au corset (The Master of the Corset)"!

Boutet's main body of work is print-based. He was an excellent draftsman, and his drawings translated superbly to fine printing techniques such as etchings and drypoint. Many of his prints were limited to an edition of 20 or less, yet they remain very reasonably priced.

Boutet was clearly someone who loved women. His charming depictions of the fairer sex continue to delight in this contemporary age.