Grolier Club Reopens Renovated Exhibition Hall with French Book Arts Exhibit

Today, the country’s oldest and largest bibliophilic society, the New York-based Grolier Club, will unveil the fruits of a three-and-a-half-year, $5-million renovation of the organization’s entire first floor and exhibition hall with, appropriately, a show highlighting the club’s Francophile roots. French Book Arts: Manuscripts, Books, Bindings, Prints, and Documents, 12th-21st Century includes nearly one hundred items pulled from the Grolier’s rich trove of French books and illuminated manuscripts. Also in the show are six items that once hailed from the collection of the “Prince of Bibliophiles” and club namesake, Jean Grolier (1489-1565).

Today, the country’s oldest and largest bibliophilic society, the New York-based Grolier Club, will unveil the fruits of a three-and-a-half-year, $5-million renovation of the organization’s entire first floor and exhibition hall with, appropriately, a show highlighting the club’s Francophile roots. French Book Arts: Manuscripts, Books, Bindings, Prints, and Documents, 12th-21st Century includes nearly one hundred items pulled from the Grolier’s rich trove of French books and illuminated manuscripts. Also in the show are six items that once hailed from the collection of the “Prince of Bibliophiles” and club namesake, Jean Grolier (1489-1565).

 

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The exhibition and accompanying book were curated and written by Grolier Club member George Fletcher. A member since 1973, Fletcher’s lifelong love of books led him to the Morgan Library as the Astor Curator of printed books and bindings, followed by a position as director of special collections at the NYPL. In 2013, Fletcher was bestowed with the title of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. “As the inaugural exhibition in our new gallery, this is the first that presents a survey of so many areas of French bibliophilia, going back to illuminated manuscripts to contemporary livres d’artistes,” Fletcher explained during a press tour. Expect to see sumptuous illuminated Books of Hours, miniatures by Boyvin, a letter by a distraught Thomas Jefferson to a French bookseller concerning a shipment of waterlogged books, and decorative bindings hailing from the 14th to the 21st centuries.
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As to the renovation: it’s a complete overhaul. Previously, the first floor exhibition hall was awash in mauve-toned walls, light wood flooring, and track lighting (see below). Standard-issue glass cases lined the walls while the back of the hall was dominated by a faux-Palladian window, also mauve. The upper balcony, where many of the Grolier Club’s treasures are stored, was flanked by white solid-wood railings. With a client portfolio that includes renovations at places like the New England Conservatory of Music and Boston Symphony Hall, Ann Beha Associates of Boston took up the challenge to update the aesthetics of the space while also addressing conservation issues, lighting, ventilation, and sound systems.

 

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“The Grolier Club put together a nine-member design team task force, and together we examined various issues while also keeping in mind the club’s history and stewardship of collections,” explained Ann Beha at the press preview. “Part of the preparation included hopping in a van and visiting other institutions throughout New York that had also recently undergone renovations, such as the Brooklyn Museum and the Cooper-Hewitt.” Staying true to the Grolier Club’s roots was essential. “The Club prides itself on welcoming the public to free exhibitions and various programs, and this renovation took that into consideration. This design incorporates heritage and technology, welcomes new visitors and promotes scholarship and engagement,” Beha said.

 

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Now, the exhibition hall features custom-built Goppion glass cases lit by LED bulbs, a properly balanced ventilation system, and mahogany-stained floors and wall panels. Gone is the mauve Palladian faux paneling in favor of a multi-paneled video wall, and the wood paneling on the upper balcony has been replaced with glass, allowing visitors on the ground level to fully appreciate the impressive surroundings. Plus, the Grolier’s 60th Street townhouse is handicapped accessible. The hall feels more open and inviting, yet still suffused with the tradition and history of the space. In short: Beha seems to have hit a home run. (Professional photos are being shot Monday, so check back here for images shortly.)

 

The club invited members earlier this week to tour the hall before it opens to the public as well as to listen to a lecture given on Wednesday night by Carla Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress.
Just as Jean Grolier was known to share his library and its treasures with friends, the public is welcome to revel in the richness of human ingenuity and talent and the newly redesigned hall, too. As an added incentive, Mr. Fletcher will be offering free lunchtime tours of the exhibition today, December 19, and February 1, all from 1-2 p.m. No reservations needed.

 

Images, from top: Florent Rousseau Binding On:Printing for Kingdom, Empire, and Republic: Treasures from the Archives of the Imprimerie Nationale. Ed. H. G. Fletcher New York, The Grolier Club & Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 2011; Matisse in a Brugalla Binding Henry de Montherlant. Pasiphaé : Chant de Minos (les Crétois) Gravures originales by Henri Matisse Paris : Martin Fabiani, 1944; Homer. Opera (Greek). Two volumes Venice: Aldus Manutius, after 31 October 1504. Both Collection of The Grolier Club and reproduced with permssion; Grolier Club Exhibition Hall pre-renovation reproduced with permission of Grolier Club; Renovation rendering reproduced with permission of Ann Beha and Grolier Club. 

Announcing the Winner of the 2018 Albertine Prize

Readers may recall a story posted back in December about the Albertine Prize, an annual award co-presented by jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy that recognizes American readers’ favorite contemporary French fiction translated into English. The reading public was invited to vote at Albertine’s website, and pretty much stuff the ballot box with their favorites.
This year’s five nominees included:

 

Incest by Christine Angot, trans. by Tess Lewis, Archipelago Books
Compass by Mathias Enard, trans. by Charlotte Mandel, New Directions
The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis, trans. by Michael Lucey, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux
Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou, trans. by Helen Stevenson, The New Press
Not One Day by Anne Garréta, trans. by Emma Ramadan, Deep Vellum
Interest in the prize was drummed up on April 10 when LitHub’s editor-in-chief Jonny Diamond, The New Yorker’s H.C. Wilentz, Albertine’s director Tom Roberge, and others shared their favorites.
The winner of the $10,000 prize was finally revealed to a packed house on Wednesday, June 6, with French literary critic and la Grande Librarie host François Busnel and translator Lydia Davis. The grand prize went to Anne Garréta’s Not One Day (Deep Vellum, 2017) translated by Emma Ramadan. Garréta’s twelve vignettes exploring memory and desire was originally published as Pas Un Jour in 2002 (éditions Grasset) and awarded the prestigious Prix Medicis. The winnings are split between author and translator and assure the book greater exposure to an English-speaking audience. Congratulations to the winners!

 

Photo courtesy of the French Embassy of New York

Release The Kraken! A NYABF Preview

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Those feeling a bit windswept by the weather these days may do well to head over to the NYABF at the Park Avenue Armory and peek into Abby Schoolman’s exhibit at booth A32, where she’s highlighting some exciting contemporary art books and bindings. In addition to her stable of works by the likes of Mark Cockram and Tim Ely, Schoolman is introducing her latest Instagram  find,The Kraken by thirty-year-old Spanish paper artist Carla Busquets.

 
This one-of-a-kind book includes eight original drawings rendered in black ink on four folios mounted on five wooden dowels.The piano hinge structure is based on innovations by book artist Hedi Kyle and the piece is signed by the artist on the back of the last leaf.

 
“I mostly work with paper,” Busquet explains in Schoolman’s catalog. “I love the versatility of the material, how easy it is to manipulate and also the skill required to turn it into delicate work.” She also looks to the natural world for inspiration, and in The Kraken, Busquet looked to the massive, fearsome sea creature of the deep that was believed to capsize seagoing vessels since the time of Odysseus. In this rendering, the kraken’s massive tentacles churn the black waves, ominously approaching a doomed schooner.

 
Formerly a conservator in the UK, Canada, and Spain, Busquets opened her own studio, la Frivé, last year where she hosts workshops for paper artists of all ages in addition to practicing her craft.

 
Bonus: this kraken won’t swamp your book-buying budget, nicely priced at $500.

If you’ve got time and energy to spare after rummaging through the NYABF’s wares, head down to Pier 36 where the annual Art on Paper show focuses on contemporary art.

photo credit: Abby Schoolman

This story first appeared on the Fine Books & Collections Blog on March 9th, 2018

Limited Edition MetroCards designed by Barbara Kruger Hit NYC Turnstiles

The New York Metro Transit Authority (MTA) is upping the MetroCard’s style cachet in 2017, even in the wake of the recent announcement that the transit authority will be phasing out the physical payment system in near future. For now, some MetroCards will be turned into modern art. Read more at Art&Object.

Welcome Art & Object!

I am now writing regular features for the recently launched Art & Object, a website dedicated to covering the art world and the secondary art market. Current stories include a look at the Houston arts scene post-Harvey, a preview of the forthcoming Salon Art + Design Show in Manhattan, and a lot more.  Please check it out, and check back often!

Left Bank Books is Back, Online

Left Bank Books is back, but without the brick and mortar setup. Erik DuRon and artist Jess Kuronen recently relaunched the Greenwich Village book hub as an online shop with a curated inventory of vintage, collectible and rare materials. Both worked briefly at the old Left Bank Books before it shuttered in 2016. They kindly answered a few questions recently about the relaunch and what it’s been like to transition to a digital bookstore.

Best of luck to the latest incarnation of Left Bank Books–be sure to visit their website here, and read my Q&A with the new owners on the Fine Books Blog. 

Jackie Kennedy’s Grand Battle

@HMHKids @JFKLibrary We take a peek at @NatashaWing and Alexandra Boiger’s forthcoming chronicle of Jackie’s Kennedy’s fight to save @GrandCentralNYC

When Jackie Saved Grand Central, by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger; HMH Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 48 pages, ages 6-9 (March 7, 2017). 

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When Jackie Saved Grand Central. Text copyright 2017 Natasha Wing, image copyright Alexandra Boiger. Reproduced with permission from HMHCo. 

More than 750,000 people pass through the magnificent halls of Grand Central Terminal daily, but without the tireless campaigning of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy (1929-1994), the fate of the rail terminal could have easily have mirrored what befell Penn Station.  Natasha Wing’s latest foray in non-fiction focuses on Kennedy’s fight to preserve the stately Beaux Arts building of 42nd Street by tracing the First Lady’s belief that preserving the past could foster a brighter future.

Starting with Kennedy’s meticulous preservation of the White House, Wing gracefully transitions from Camelot to 1975 without mentioning JFK’s assasination by simply stating that another American landmark needed Jackie’s strength and fortitude. Alexandra Boiger’s  watercolors add depth through symbolic deployment of color: black for power, red for anger, tones of yellow for resilience, and that famous cerulean blue found on Grand Central’s ceiling to evoke victory. Notes and a bibliography round out this timely example of how to successfuly champion for a worthy cause in the face of opposition.

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When Jackie Saved Grand Central. Text copyright 2017 Natasha Wing, image copyright 2017 Alexandra Boiger. Reproduced with permission from HMHCo.