Sunday, August 19, 2012
Bookstores for Gazers
Philip Greenberg for The New York Times
Especially in the summer, when the sidewalks of the New York art world turn into barren, windswept places, I spend a lot of time visiting what I like to think of as a parallel art world, one that seems almost clandestine.
To describe them as bookstores — which they are, in the narrowest technical sense — would be a little like describing “On the Road” as a guide to traveling America by automobile. Yes, you can buy books in these stores, mostly books about art or artists, or books made by artists, or books and other things, mostly on paper, directly or obliquely related to the life of contemporary art.
But over the last few years the city has entered a kind of golden age of art-book establishments that transcend the bounds of the bookstore. Relative newcomers like Karma, a tiny publishing-office-meets-shop in the West Village, and 6 Decades, upstairs in a ramshackle-looking building on Canal Street, have joined veterans like Specific Object in Chelsea and, a few blocks away, Printed Matter, the artist-founded nonprofit that is now in its fourth decade.
Dashwood Books, which specializes in new and hard-to-find photography publications, opened in 2005 on Bond Street at the edge of the East Village. And just a few months ago a mysterious dealer named Fulton Ryder opened a truly unclassifiable, appointment-only shop on the Upper East Side. (A recent tour of the shop was granted on the condition that its location, in a dim 1970s-flavored apartment building, not be revealed; its owner’s true identity, however, has been an open secret for months — Fulton Ryder is a nom de plume of the artist and prominent book collector Richard Prince.)