Founded in 1976, Printed Matter, Inc. is the world’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to the dissemination, understanding and appreciation of artists’ books and related publications.
First established in Tribeca by a group of individuals working in the arts (among them artist Sol LeWitt and critic Lucy Lippard), Printed Matter was developed in response to the growing interest in publications made by artists. Starting in the early 60s, many of the pioneering conceptual artists (as well as performance, process, environment, sound and other experimental media artists) began to explore the possibilities of the book form as an artistic medium. Large-edition and economically produced publications allowed experimentation with artworks that were affordable and could circulate outside of the mainstream gallery system. Printed Matter provided a space that championed artists’ books as complex and meaningful artworks, helping bring broader visibility to a medium that was not widely embraced at the time.
After 13 years on Lispenard Street in Tribeca, Printed Matter moved to a location on Wooster Street in SoHo in 1989. The spacious bookshop with large storefront windows allowed for the development of expanded public programming, including more exhibitions and events, and contributed to the cultural vibrancy of the neighborhood. In 2001 Printed Matter made its move to Chelsea, which had since become New York City’s contemporary arts district. In 2015, the store relocated to its current space on 11th Avenue. The new location features a much larger bookstore spread across a ground floor and a large public stairwell leading to a mezzanine level. The space features a dedicated exhibition area, as well as increased office space for its growing staff. Printed Matter’s new home provides a much more comfortable environment for visitors to engage with the ever-growing inventory, and for a busy schedule of public programs.
Artists’ books continue to provide a remarkable reflection of contemporary artistic practices – tracing and even leading many of the most important developments in the historical trajectory. In the face of the ongoing proliferation of digital media and information, there has been an astounding resurgence over the past several years in both artists’ publishing and public interest. In tandem with this truly international phenomenon, Printed Matter founded the NY and LA art fairs (in 2004 and 2013 respectively), which have become the world’s largest venues for the distribution, investigation and celebration of artists books and art publishing. It is thrilling that Printed Matter’s mission continues to be resilient, and remains more relevant than ever.