Go and Publish
Yannick Bouillis on Offprint Amsterdam

Issue no2
April - May 2022
countryside & biennale guide

‘Publishing will support emerging practices more than any art space will do’, Yannick Bouillis, director of the art publishing fair Offprint, strongly believes. Metropolis M speaks with Bouillis in the context of the first Dutch edition of Offprint, which opens on Thursday (20 September) at the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam during Unseen Photo Fair.

—Domeniek RuytersThis is the first edition of the art publishing fair Offprint in The Netherlands, but not the first one overall. How did it start?

—Yannick Bouillis‘In 2010, I started Offprint, in Paris, even though I was already living in the Netherlands. I just opened a bookshop for independent publishers, Shashin, but I desperately needed a larger audience for the shop. The selection of publications was so strict that my audience was totally disseminated. I could not expect the people from my neighbourhood to be my "customers". I quickly realized that Amsterdam or The Netherlands was too small. I decided to participate at art fairs but it was just too expensive - the income generated by a book does not allow you to participate any art fairs in general. And fairs visitors tend to be more conservative than independent publisher buyers. I then started my own (book) fair: Offprint, for independent art publishers. And I got why I wanted: a stand! But the success was so big that I had to close the shop the next year to focus on the organisation of Offprint. This year, I am organizing Offprint Paris in collaboration with École Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris (Nicolas Bourriaud is the new director of the academy), Offprint Amsterdam (in collaboration with Unseen Photo Fair), and I am starting Offprint Publishing this year with a focus on art theory.’

—Domeniek RuytersSo, it was immediately a big success in Paris?

—Yannick Bouillis‘Yes. About 3/4000 people came the first year, without any press attention or advertising, pure facebook and mouth to mouth. 6/7000 visitors came the second year, covered by a few Dutch media only. This year, I am expecting about 8/10,000 visitors for the third edition. It is not so much that I am good at organizing and promoting Offprint, it just reflects an under exposed aspect of art: publishing. Contemporary art is too often understood and promoted through the category "exhibiting", especially with the acknowledgement of curatorial approaches in the last decade. Most of the efforts of the art community go in that direction, but the topic of "publishing" seems to me totally overlooked as a structuring moment of understanding art. Art magazines and art publishers (journalists, academics, artists, graphic designers, photographers etc) play a key role in the economy of art. If the very first manifestation of a new art trend might be an exhibition, it is also often a publication (magazines, websites, artist books, photobooks, pamphlets, newspapers). But it is more difficult to acknowledge, because publishing is very much non-institutional. We already know that the writing of art history focuses too much on originality, authorship, innovation, but I also believe it focuses too much on exhibitions and curatorial approaches. The art field seems to be structured and organised as much through publishing strategies/activities by magazines and publishers as museums are nowadays, especially because government institutions expects an audience. And with the dissolution of most of the physical formats (museums as well as books) through the development of digital activities and cultures, the opposition between exhibiting and publishing will be reinforced. I strongly believe that in the next few years, publishing will support emerging practices more than any art space will do.’

—Domeniek RuytersWill Offprint be focused on photography this year, in the context of the Unseen Photo Fair?

—Yannick Bouillis‘Offprint has no special focus on photography. Offprint is an art publishing fair, I am interested in art in a broad sense (contemporary art, graphic design, photography) - I am even thinking of dedicating the next Offprint to experimental music and movies. Your question allows me a precision. There are some misunderstandings about my relationship to photography for three reasons: because of my family situation (my wife used to be curator at Foam Museum), because, contrary to most art people, I like photography, and because of the timing of Offprint Paris, during Paris Photo. When I started Offprint, I wanted it to happen during FIAC, the largest art fair in France. But I quickly realized that there was too much going on during the FIAC: no one would have come to Offprint. The other option would have been to organize it alone, not next to a big event, but that would have caused the same problem, no one would have come. I decided to put myself in the energy of Paris Photo and ask art publishers to make a selection of photo books from their catalogue. The lack of an interesting side program during Paris photo, the conservative nature of this fair and the growing interested in independent publishing made it very successful. The collaboration with the École des Beaux Arts will allow it to get back to the normal situation - but not forgetting photographers.’

—Domeniek RuytersWho will be participating?

—Yannick Bouillis‘Cutting edge art publishers: publishers stricto sensu, art schools, artist collective, graphic design studios, art spaces, galleries, etc. Again, the institutional frame does not matter too much. Regarding the current situation of digitalization of content, I think it will be less and less relevant for Offprint.’

—Domeniek Ruyters Will there be a special program as well, presentations, lectures etc?

—Yannick Bouillis‘Yes, it is not fully confirmed but I am organizing an artist talk with the Dutch artist Jacqueline de Jong. She has been a funding member of situationism, with Guy Debord. She self-published The Situationists Times from 1962 to 1967. It is interesting to speak of situationism in the context of the Unseen Photo Fair. Especially right after the presentation of Look. Ed !, photographs by Ed van der Elsken, selected by Marlene Dumas, Rineke Dijkstra and Marijke van Warmerdam. Few people know that Een liefdesgeschiedenis in Saint Germain des Pres (1956) by Van der Elsken is a photo-novel that takes the situationist members as models, including Guy Debord. According to the legend, you can see a young Debord in one of the photographs - his face in a mirror of the bar.’

—Domeniek RuytersWhat is so special about the photo book? It seems that in a time when books are loosing ground, the photo book is getting more and more important?

—Yannick Bouillis‘Artist and photo books gained large interest in recent years for three reasons: the freedom it offers to artists and photographers to show their works to a large audience (books circulate easily worldwide); the acknowledgement that they are actively contributing to art development; and the fact that they belong to the art market - since artist and photo books are considered as artworks, they are considered an asset.’

Offprint Amsterdam
20-23 September 2012
Location: Westergasfabriek (Machinegebouw), Amsterdam

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 2 — 2022