Meet the team behind the iconic New York bookstore and bi-coastal fair, which just moved to a new location to make more room for a growing community.
I’ve been at Printed Matter for 26 years now. I started as a p/t book packer, then became a sales assistant, then manager for over a decade, then associate director for nearly a decade—I’ve pretty much worked in most of the job descriptions here. Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on Printed Matter’s next publication: A Book About Colab (and Related Activities), a celebration of Collaborative Projects, Inc. (aka Colab), an unruly, highly creative, highly productive group of artists active in the late ’70s and early ’80s who shared a “by artists and for artists” ethos. Printed Matter was founded in that same historical and cultural context, and our mission remains pretty true to its origins, which is to foster the distribution, understanding and appreciation of artists’ books and related publications.
Bibliographer / Inventory Manager
I’ve been the bibliographer at Printed Matter for a little over two years, so I’m literally immersed in artists’ books all the time. We have a complex inventory system that grows every day with new artists’ publications—some recently published, others we carried years ago but are now out-of-print and often rare. I catalog these incoming titles and record all of the bibliographic information for our inventory database. Printed Matter as a space was bursting at the seams with inventory and new staff at the Tenth Avenue location, which shows how much the art book publishing world is growing, and how far the organization has come in forty years.
Finance and HR Manager
Most of our 15,000 books are sold on consignment by approximately 6,000 artists. The best part of my job is paying these artists what we owe them for their books. There have been times throughout our forty-year history where we were unable to pay artists right away, but we are now in a place where we can pay them without having to check our bank balance.Printed Matter bridges the gap between the various art scenes within New York. I think this is most apparent at the New York and LA Art Book Fairs, where we have blue-chip galleries, small presses and independent zinesters all exhibiting together, reaching the same audience.
I’m in charge of raising all of PM’s contributed income—meaning any funds we can receive through grants and donations as a non-profit organization. Since the grantmaking process can take such a long time, it provides a good excuse to plan and to look at everything from a wider perspective and ensure that what we’re doing all makes sense and fits together. That’s one of my favorite aspects of the job: being involved in early big-picture conversations about programs and initiatives. Writing a really good grant can be pleasurable and rewarding, too; if the project is cool, it can be super fun to craft the right, compelling language to convince someone that this thing is timely, innovative, and totally vital—and if all goes well, get a good chunk of money to see it through!
Programming and Press Coordinator
I’ve always had an interest in books, first maybe through experimental writing and poetry. At some point, it sort of clicked that there was this whole other realm you could step into that dealt with some of the same kind of considerations but brought in visual elements, and that was exciting. The book still seems like an arena with so much to offer, and a lot of what’s fun about this job is getting to see on a daily basis the many ways people are coming at it.
Shannon Michael Cane, PM Fairs and Editions Curator (right) & Jordan Nassar, PM Fairs and Editions Coordinator (left)
We run the NY and LA Art Book Fairs together. Some might even go as far as to say we’re a dream team. PM is a New York institution, plain and simple. Lots of things go in and out of fashion in the world, and especially in the art world, but Printed Matter keeps on with its original mission. This is likely because Printed Matter, more so than anything else, is a platform for artists—so no matter what is in fashion, the books will resonate and remain contemporary. The new space is a huge improvement, considering how much we had outgrown the last space, but seeing as Printed Matter has had more than a few locations over the past forty years, the location is only the latest chapter in the (hopefully) never-ending story.
Director’s Assistant / General Manager
What I like most about my job is that I get to do a little bit of everything, from planning events and exhibitions to working at art fairs to helping customers in the store. I feel like PM plays a very unique and important role in the art scene. We are not easily defined—a combination of a retail store, a living archive and artist’s resource, a gallery and a performance space. With the new location, we are able to do more programming than ever before, and put on events that we would not have been able to host previously due to space limitations. It’s been really exciting to see people interact with the new space and breathe life into it.
Sales Coordinator / Bookstore Manager
I love learning about artists through their work, seeing their experiments, seeing what people respond to and watching funny book publishing details trend (like the time when everyone seemed to remember spiral binding was an option). As an artist myself, I find it very inspiring and encouraging to be around. We are one of the few places in Chelsea where different artists operating outside (and within, and around) the commercial gallery system can show their work and distribute it to the public in an affordable way and under one roof.
Photography by Tim Schutsky.
Serving as the backdrop for this photo shoot with Printed Matter’s team members is “Portals,” an exhibition by American artist Keith Sonnier, held in late 2015 at Maccarone, New York. Sonnier’s
by-now iconic work is emblematic of a generation of artists who sought to liberate the artistic encounter from the formal constraints of modernism to produce a sensory and emotional experience. In this series of fourteen wall-mounted neon sculptures, Sonnier has explored the orphic allegory of the portal, interpreted as a doorway that contains both nascency and termination.