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Ed Rucha, Twentysix Gasoline Stations, 1963

Room&Book: What Makes A Book Rare Today?

7 Jun 2014

What makes a book ‘rare’ in the 21st Century? Historically, the most essential factors in determining rarity have been its importance, availability and the amount published. But in a world saturated with facsimiles, multiple distribution and publishing platforms, as well as sophisticated design software, do these characteristics still apply?

To accompany the inaugural Room&Book Art Book Fair, the ICA have invited an esteemed panel of speakers featuring Sven Becker, Louisa Riley-Smith, David Campany and Emily King (chair) to discuss what defines a rare book today.

Sven Becker is a Director of Christie’s and a specialist in their Books & Manuscripts Department, before which he was rare books dealer. He has wide-ranging expertise, with a particular interest in early books and 20th-century illustrated books. Sven initiated successful new auction categories, including in Photobooks and Russian Books, as a way to encourage buyers from other fields, and with different ideas about rarity, to enter the book market.

David Campany is a writer and curator. Recent books include Walker Evans: the magazine work (Steidl 2014), Gasoline (MACK 2013), Photography and Cinema (Reaktion 2008) and The Open Road: photographic trips across America (Aperture, 2014). Last year he curated major shows of the work of Victor Burgin (AmbikaP3) and Mark Neville (The Photographers' Gallery). His co-curated show Lewis Baltz: Common Objects is currently on at Le Bal, Paris.

Louisa Riley-Smith founded 20th Century Art Archives in 1985. She has worked with Waddington Galleries, London in the 1980s running the catalogue and artist book publishing programme. Working with artist's books, ephemera, periodicals and archival material, and often directly with the artists themselves, she is an established professional in this field.

Emily King is a London-based design historian, writer and curator. Recent projects include the book Restart: New Systems of Graphic Design and the British Council exhibition The Book Corner. She is design editor of Frieze magazine. In 2009, she was the curator of Quick, quick, slow exhibition at the Experimenta, in Lisbon.

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