AIESEC Life New York Hub welcomed Christopher Lyon as guest speaker for the first of its “Industry Focus” events with an exploration of the changing art book publishing business. His career includes stints in writing and editing at several major publishers and The Museum of Modern Art. Chris is currently leading development of an art e-platform aimed at the emerging market for app books on mobile devices.
Five years ago, Chris wrote an in-depth article for Art in America magazine examining the reasons for the widely recognized crisis of trade art publishing. Most art books have required subsidies to be viable, and to some extent have been supplanted by exhibition catalogs. Obtaining rights to reproduce the images became much more difficult in the 1980s. Publishers—increasingly corporate conglomerates—responded by moving away from art books to more-profitable lifestyle and design books.
In April of this year, e-books became the single best-selling category in American publishing for the first time. Most observers would agree that the future is electronic, but exactly what form will dominate for art books remains unclear. Are there ways of going beyond simply re-creating a printed text electronically? Does the ability to change things like font and layout help or hinder the experience of an art book? Or might it be better to leave behind the codex metaphor for a spatial one, more akin to experiencing a museum or gallery?
Chris showed some interesting prototypes of possible future iPad apps. The 15 attendees, several with careers in publishing, were able to provide a lively back-and-forth exchange of ideas, experience, thoughts and feedback, which continued over dinner at a nearby pub. Click here to view Chris’s slide show. NYC-ArtBook
Thanks are due to Standard Chartered Bank, global partner of AIESEC, for providing its board room and fine art collection as the backdrop to the event.
Bio of Christopher Lyon
Chris has worked as an art journalist and critic, and is the author of a widely praised 2010 monograph on the artist Nancy Spero. His most recent book is Couples in Art, to be published this fall by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. As an editor of art books, Chris has worked on the museum side, as a writer and editor for 10 years at The Museum of Modern Art, and on the trade side at major art book publishers including Bulfinch Press (Time Warner), Rizzoli International Publications, and Abbeville Press. Most recently he has served as Editor-in-Chief of Prestel Publishing, the New York office of a Munich-based imprint of Random House Germany.