HISTORY

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Assistant Manager Cassandra Reid at 77 Wooster Street (1991). Photo by Nancy Linn.

Founded in 1976, Printed Matter, Inc. is the world’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to the disseminationunderstanding and appreciation of artists' books and related publications.

First established in Tribeca by Sol Lewitt and Lucy Lippard (among other important artists and art-workers) 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 democratically accessible, affordable, collaborative, 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. The spacious bookshop and large storefront windows allowed for book displays and artists’ installations, contributing to the vibrancy of a neighborhood that was undergoing rapid changes. In 2001 Printed Matter made its move to Chelsea, the center of New York’s art district, and further established its relationship to the contemporary arts. In 2015, we relocated to our current storefront on 11th Avenue. The new location features a much larger bookstore across a ground floor and mezzanine level, as well as a dedicated exhibition area and more office space for our staff. Most importantly our new space provides a more comfortable environment for visitors to engage with our growing inventory of books by artists, and for our busy schedule of public programs.

Over the years, Printed Matter has maintained a close relationship with the rich history of artists’ publications and continues to carry works from many of our organization's founding artists. Printed Matter’s first catalogue in 1976 included books from a number of artists who would turn out to be major figures of a generation – Kathy AckerLaurie AndersonCarl AndreJohn BaldessariDaniel BurenSusan HillerSol LeWittAdrian Piper, Ad Reinhardt, Martha RoslerEdward Ruscha, and Lawrence Weiner to name a few– many of which are still available to purchase (though most no longer cost $2).

Artists’ books have continued to provide a remarkable reflection on contemporary artistic practices. In recent years the community has witnessed an explosion of independently published projects, resulting in an increased and renewed interest in the field. As artists’ book publishing undergoes this tremendous renaissance, Printed Matter has expanded its services and activities to meet the needs of the field, notably including the establishment of our NY Art Book Fair in 2005 and the LA Art Book Fair in 2013. We’re thrilled to find that Printed Matter’s mission is more pertinent than ever.

In 2012 Printed Matter suffered from flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy, resulting in the loss of 9,000 books and considerable damage of our Archive. We are grateful for the tremendous support of the many individuals and foundations that helped us make steps towards a full recovery. Thank you to everyone who generously reached out to support the organization during our time of need.


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7 Lispenard Street, Window installation by Ida Applebroog (1980). Photo by Nancy Linn.
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7 Lispenard Street, Window Installation by Anne Pitrone (1981). Photo by Nancy Linn.
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Nancy Linn, Nan Becker, and Mike Glier outside of 7 Lispenard Street (1981). Photo by Stephen Bloss.
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Nancy Linn, Nan Becker, Mike Glier, and lots of books at 7 Lispenard Street (1981). Photos by Stephen Bloss.
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Director John Goodwin outside of 77 Wooster Street. Photo by Nancy Linn.
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Assistant Manager José Gabriel Fernández straightening books at 77 Wooster Street. Photo by Nancy Linn.
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Gordon Simpson, John Goodwin, Cynthia Chris, Solveig Schumann at 77 Wooster Street (1981). Photos by Nancy Linn.
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