Art books, monographs and catalogs are essential for historians, collectors and artists, but they rarely make money. Often oversized and lavishly illustrated on high-quality glossy paper, they are expensive to produce for the relatively tiny number of institutions and individuals who buy them. Enter the Artist Book Foundation, a new nonprofit organization dedicated to publishing fine-art references that otherwise would not be seen. Next month, it will release “Trucks: Recent Works by John Himmelfarb,” to accompany a new traveling exhibition of that Chicago artist’s work that opened last week at the Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana.
“Think of the Artist Book Foundation as a museum in print,” said the New York artist and printmaker Tom Slaughter. Smaller institutions often cannot afford to publish exhibition catalogs. The foundation plans to document and distribute a visual record of work that would otherwise hardly be seen. Ten percent of each print run will be donated to public, art and university libraries, said Gibb Taylor, who founded the foundation with Leslie Pell van Breen.
“Trucks” is part of the foundation’s inaugural publishing roster. In the past six weeks, the organization has released two other books: a series of interviews with 14 master furniture makers and a monograph of the painter and printmaker Robert Kipniss. And in June, it is releasing its first catalogue raisonné — a definitive and comprehensive inventory of an artist’s work. This inventory, priced at $150, is devoted to the sculptor and furniture designer Wendell Castle, whose creations can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.