I took a holiday to the Melbourne Art Book Fair

A blog post by Garry Trinh

The 2017 Melbourne Art Book Fair brought together over 200 established and emerging art publishers, artists, writers and designers for fifty diverse programs including free talks, workshops, book launches and performances.


My holiday began at 4.30am, when I dragged 22kg of my self published photography books to Sydney airport and onto a plane full of Justin Bieber fans.

I was the first stall holder to arrive at the National Gallery of Victoria to set up my stand for the fair. After brushing my teeth in the NGV bathroom (that felt weird) I was introduced to Felix Wilson from Particle books, who I was sharing my stand with. We were done setting up in 5 minutes.

IMG_3815Shared stand of Garry Trinh and Particle Books

I spent the rest of the day completing my usual Melbourne routine: checking out zines at Sticky, visiting Metropolis Books, having a warm waffle at Waffle On and a lot of people watching.

Doors for the fair remained opened for eleven long hours, with a slow and constant stream of people from all areas of the creative community. It was busy enough that I missed lunch and most of the programmed talks.

MABF5Sternberg Press, Germany, stand

As a stallholder, I enjoy watching people look through my work and hearing feedback. I like seeing the ways people interact with my books. Which ones they pick-up first. How much time they spend on each page. I like seeing their expressions when they spot a funny picture. We talk about independent publishing and how they can publish their own books. Most of all, I like when people understand my books without me having to explain what I was trying to achieve. These people usually return for a second look and bring their friends.

The final day passed in a blur of questions, discussions, book signings, networking, idol spotting and a parade of friends. Art book fairs are one of the few places that people feel comfortable buying art. I sold out of some books.

Endless Book Club talkEndless Book Club held in the NGV Federation Court

A particular highlight on the final day of the fair was meeting Philip Jackson, who was at the fair collecting books for the National Library of Australia. The library collects everything by Australian artists, from zines to hardcover books. Philip had a way about him that was very endearing and reminded me a little of photographer Bill Cunningham. He cares.

Philip JacksonPhilip Jackson

Other stallholder highlights:

Chloe Ferres and Sarah Abad

Two ladies from Sydney who publish books that are always surprising and playful. They work within the boundaries of print on demand and are consistently proving that imagination can overcome any limitations.

MABF1Sarah Abad and Chloe Ferres unpacking their bags for the fair

Commune Press

Commune are a small publisher from Tokyo. They participate in book fairs all over the world and publish a fresh selection of zines by young Asian artists. Their enthusiasm was infectious.

Photofile Magazine

The magazine that refuses to die. They launched their 98th issue at the fair. They are in safe hands with Daniel Boetker-Smith as their new editor

The Good Copy

They describe themselves as a newsagent for writers.They make visual people believe writing and gramma can be fun. They have a great motto for anyone working in print.‘Stay Nervous’.

MABF6Meredith Forrester and Penny Modra from The Good Copy

Perimeter Books
Have done more to reinvigorate the interest in art book publishing in Australia than anyone else. Their latest publication ‘Walking in Both Directions’ by Emily Ferretti is everything I would want for my own book.

Best tote bag design.

Particle Books
Best book title: Sexy Animals 2.

After three days I sold roughly 10 of every book I brought to the fair. My luggage coming to the fair was 22kg and 21.7kg on the way home; I purchased almost as many new books as I sold. That final night I discussed publishing books in Australia over dinner with Kim Hungerford (Books Kinokuniya) and Dan Rule and Justine Ellis (Perimeter Books). The three of them had just returned from the LA Art Book Fair, where they spent a few days Ubering around art book stores in LA. I immediately added that to my ‘to do’ list.

Dan Rule and Kim HungerfordDan Rule of Perimeter Books and Kim Hungerford of Books Kinokuniya

It was great seeing new international publishing houses supporting the fair this year. Galleries and cultural institution were also well represented. However I was disappointed to see fewer local independent publishers participating. There are so few opportunities in Australia for independent art book publishers to get together to share ideas, receive feedback from customers, sell a ton of books and have a good time. If you love print and design and want publishing to thrive in Australia, events like the Melbourne Art Book Fair must be supported. I hope to see you in Sydney in September for the Art Space, Volume Art Book Fair.

Garry Trinh is a photo media artist and creative community manager at Blurb Books. He currently has a one-year tenancy at Parramatta Artists Studios.