Friday, July 01, 2011

Artists books in Paris



I took this photo of the sun emerging over the horizon as we flew over inland Australia, heading home. Apart from reducing the image size for uploading, it is completely unaltered or processed.

So now I am back home, settling into a surprisingly cold winter, but I still have more to share about the trip.

When I was in Paris three years ago, I tried to look for artists books. I did some research on the internet and also checked out the Book Arts Newsletter, but only came up with two shop names. The first, as I’ve mentioned previously was Florence Loewy nearby in the Marais (9 rue de Thorigny) and the second is Christophe Daviet-Thery, which is in the 13th arrondissment.

On that trip, by a bit of luck, there was an exhibition of artists books down the road from where I was staying in Montmartre. It was at the Musee d’Art Naif (naive art) at Halle Saint Pierre. The artists books were a student graduation show (not naive art at all) and I’m not really sure why they were in that venue. Anyway, those three were all I was able to track down, even after speaking to the lecturer whose students were participating in that show and who ran a small publishing house for his students’ books.


Book Fair 2


This trip I had some more luck. One week-end there was an antiquarian, rare and old book fair in the the square in front of St Sulpice. While the majority of stalls concentrated on the first and rare editions, maps, etchings, lithographs etc,  there were some stalls that had brought along some of their stocks of artists books. There were some beautiful contemporary works by major French publishers of this type of fine edition, which included etched, blind embossed, lithograph and screen printed artists books. As Paris has always been a major site for numerous historic avant-garde movements, there were also some artists books in this category too. However, there was one little old book that won my heart (and despite a hefty price tag) and a place in my suitcase.

The best way to show you is visually.





The man selling this told me it is a Moroccan prayer book, dated 1729 (when the date is converted to the Gregorian calendar). But it isn’t the usual prayer book from the region, which would be based on the Koran. Instead this is rather heretical, containing incantations for warding off evil spirits, for blessing travellers etc. It is built for carrying on the belt (by the loop) hence its condition isn’t great, but both this, and its subversive contents make it very rare.

I was, of course, entranced, and had to have it. I am interested in showing it to someone knowledgeable in this subject, so if you can help, or suggest someone who could, I’d be very interested to hear from you.

Beyond the Antiquarian Book Fair, it is my impression that the situation in Paris regarding artists books had changed since 2008. Perhaps I am just looking in the right places this time, but I definitely found a lot more artists books around.

There appears to be three main types of venue.

  • Contemporary galleries showing installations, paintings etc but also including a small range of artists books by artists whom they represent (perhaps 30 examples by say, a dozen different artists). You may well stumble upon these, and I’ve learned it is worth asking whether there are any artists books (they are often hidden away).


  • Next, there are shops entirely devoted to the artists book. They stock contemporary works being published in larger e.g. 500, 1000 or even unlimited editions. In addition, these shops often include multiples and art objects, and perhaps a small exhibition space devoted primarily to smaller-run artists books. In addition to Florence Loewy and Christophe Daviet-Thery, we found (and frequented) Yvon Lambert Bookshop, (108 Rue Vieille du Temple) in the Marais. The bookshop is associated with the gallery of the same name nearby.


  • Finally there are shops selling old, rare books and/or prints, which can be a goldmine in terms of stocking artists books or objects by well-known artists who were members of particular historic art movements. These tend to be avant-garde movements who produced artists books, such as members of Cobra, the Lettrists, the Situationists and Fluxus. Here I am talking about names like Guy Debord, Asger Jorn, Alison Knowles. A number of these are located on the left bank (6th arrondissment). My favourite was Libtairie Lecointre Drouet (9 rue de Tournon).

With all this opportunity, of course, we had to do some purchasing BUT I was very restrained – no, really, I was!! So here’s a little peek at some of my favourite new acquisitions.


Title: “sleep on, beloved”

Artist: Yosuke Yamaguchi

See more on the artist’s blog (mostly in Japanese):   or his Flickr photostream:



This book of beautiful, gouache paintings by Yamaguchi, reproduced at the size of a tabloid newspaper, explores a world of dreamscapes.

Title: Editions Dilecta

Artist: Anish Kapoor

Kapoor said: “What I am trying to do is paint the interior, my interior.”




I was drawn to the grainy darkness seeping into the white of the page, the contrasting bright colours. But actually, as soon as I saw the marks creeping around the edge of the paper, invading the first opening (first picture) I was entranced.

Sadly, this is not one of the 50 copies signed by the artist.

Title: RF.22.301

Artist: Rene Fauconnet





A very cool book of genuine typewriter art dating from 1961 (who has a typewriter and the patience to do such a thing these days!). Actually belongs to my dh, but I love it too now!

Title: Et pourquoi pas l’eternite? (And why not eternity?)

Artist: Renaud Allirand   More here:

Text: Jacques Lesot



This book of moody, semi-abstract ink paintings is by talented printmaker, painter and book artist, Renaud Allirand. Jacques Lesot wrote the text in response to Renaud’s images. Apparently it is rather difficult to penetrate even for a native French speaker, so I am most content to immerse myself in the tiny paintings. (Each is only 7.5cm x 7.5cm).

There are more images of Renaud’s books on his website here.


  1. such deliciousness I can hardly stand it! (including your very beautiful photo - really gorgeous amanda)

    I think I'd find the battered book (and the kapoor) hard to resist too.... heck I'll have to visit you one time and fondle all the books won't I?!

    how great that you had a wonderful visit (and that we got to travel along.... at least in our thoughts - which is all my time and budget will allow!)

  2. Well, take this as your standing invitation for a "book fondling" session any time, Ronnie.
    Glad you have enjoyed the posts.

  3. The prayer book is amazing, I bet it's even better in person. What will you do with it? Display it somewhere in your home perhaps?

    Love your photo too, the layers of colour are quite stunning.

  4. Great stuff Amanda, very cool!

  5. Such wonderful posts, Amanda, and a lovely way to see your favourite things. The little prayer book is just stunning, no wonder you couldn't resist it. What a binding! I'm so glad you had such a successful time in Paris, and if I ever make it there I'll be asking your advice as you seem to have done so well at finding great places to see and items to buy.