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Max Schumann on Printed Matter / New York

After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Chelsea neighborhood was badly damaged. David Zwirner lost many of Philip-Lorca diCorcia Polaroids. Paula Cooper Gallery let Carl Andre sculptures dry outside on the street. An apocalypse struck the art world. Printed Matter was also severely hurt.

But, as always, Americans are resilient. Very soon, in October, Printed Matter will open a much larger new space in the Chelsea area, and it will celebrate its fortieth anniversary in full force next year. Flash Art spoke with the Acting Executive Director, Max Schumann.

What is Printed Matter focusing on these days?

We have a crazy schedule. We do weekly events — up to three a week — that include book launches, artists’ discussions, presentations and talks, performances and other kinds of things. We’re also organizing and managing the NY and LA Art Book Fairs as well as participating in other book fairs. We have different off-site partnerships with other arts organizations (Walker Art Center, Aspen Museum of Art, and soon at Centro University in Mexico City, and Artspace in Sydney). So we’ re much more than retail. Part of our mission is education, so we have a full schedule of different programs. We just need more space to be able to properly do that. We’ re scrunched into that little place on 10th Avenue where there’s not even enough room for the books, let alone everything else. So [our new space] will really allow us to properly do what we do.

What will be special about the new place?

Within this new place, we can run two simultaneous exhibits, or we can run a really large in-depth survey because we will have enough exhibition space for delving into different aspects of artists’ books. We’ll still have a front window where we will be doing artists’ window installations as well. And then we will have much more floor space where we can properly host the public to come to the many events that we do. We will also have the office space that we need. We really doubled in the last eight years; our staff is now ten full-time people. For our growing organization, we needed to move. Hurricane Sandy was quite a traumatic experience. Even though it was incredibly disruptive — and we tragically lost tons of books — we managed to rescue most of our archive. It took over a year to fully recover from that. We did it with an amazing outpouring of support from the general public, but also from many other organizations and foundations. The dollar amount of the inventory that we lost was one thing, but the retail value was a substantial amount — it was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Anyway, our lease is expiring August 2015, so we started this broad search for options in this very tough, competitive real-estate market. With the support of the chairman of our board, Phil Aarons, James [Jenkin, former executive director] succeeded in negotiating a long-term lease over here. It’s a ten-year lease. We’re grateful to be able to stay in the Chelsea community. So we’re going to shut down for the month of August. Every year we have to shut down for a couple weeks anyway because we have to do our annual inventory when we count everything we have. This year it looks like we’re going to combine the move with our annual inventory count.

What programs are upcoming?

I can’t divulge yet. But I’m getting really excited because we’re in conversation with a bunch of artists, both emerging and established. We have to schedule everything really soon. We have between six and eight really cool things that we’re looking forward to presenting. Printed Matter’s fortieth anniversary will be in 2016, so we’ll definitely have some programming that references the full scope of our history. Starting in June, we have a temporary satellite space at the Carolina Nitsch Project Room at 534 W 22nd Street, where we’ll put on a few presentations of past Printed Matter editions and small exhibitions. During August, while Tenth Avenue is closed for the move, we’ll have an off-site book store there which will allow us to to continue to sell books in the neighborhood.

What will the new space look like?

The new space is designed by Handel Architects, which is a large, international architecture firm, and they’re doing the design pro bono, which is great, but we still have to pay for the major structural renovations, estimated at about $850,000. We have to raise that money. And basically we have until August to raise that money. We’re near the halfway point, but we have a lot of fundraising to do.

by Alexandre Stipanovich