Connoisseurs is a unique publishing house that cultivates its plurality. Launched in 2017 by the visual artists Karina Bisch and Nicolas Chardon to promote contemporary painting, the project is based on the prolixity of the links that the two founders nurture with a generation of emerging artists. The duo multiplies the publishing of catalogues and artists’ books and presents at Made in Town the fruit of their first two years of production. Four questions to Nicolas Chardon.
From 28 to 30th June 2019
Made in Town
58, rue du Vertbois
How did you get the idea of the Connoisseurs publishing house ?
Connoisseurs originates from a long-standing interest and practice in publishing. Before Connoisseurs we had already produced several books in different production scales: from the classic exhibition catalogue to more experimental formats. For these projects we were authors, but already publishers in a way. In accordance with our prior publishers – Revolver in Frankfurt which published my first book, it: éditions with which we collaborated many times, or the Bibliothèque Générale which published Karina Bisch’s famous KIOSK – we took on a large part of the editorial work.
Connoisseurs was born from this taste for making our own books and the desire to show the work of artists we love and want to support.
In the end, and I only recently realized it, it was mainly my experience as a conservation librarian at the Louvre Museum over 20 years ago that was my entry into the world of paper.
What are the specificities of the editorial line?
After finding the name of the publishing house, we came across this quote from Panofsky (Meaning in the Visual Arts, 1955): “The connoisseur might be defined as a laconic art historian, and the art historian as a loquacious connoisseur“. It was really funny! Without knowing, we aimed right as our project is precisely about making “laconic” books, without too many words, without a legend.
As a collector of books on art, I have always given more importance to “small” formats rather than large so-called “reference” books. It is in these places that the collector’s madness can best be expressed. Manufacturing defects, misprints or “Erratum” as well as the fragility of a paper are all sources of joy. Therefore, we do everything in our power to ensure that our publications subscribe to this genre, cultivating the famous adage “well done / badly done / not done”.
Each of our publication is completed by a limited “collector’s version” which often looks more like a small series of originals than a real edition. It’s a collector’s collector’s item, in short.
What is the place of self-production in the publishing of your books?
A priori we do not set ourselves any rules as to the production of our works. They are often based on a Low Tech aesthetic, which simply results from our budgets’! This reality compels a part of self-production and we do not hide from it: it is our credo. Especially since this is a job we enjoy: heating photocopiers, excitingly walking through the shelves of the Bureau Vallée, spending days stapling sheets or sticking stickers…. Many of our publications are clearly inspired from an administrative aesthetic, at the crossroads between the simplicity of the archival record and the memory of conceptual art.
We also claim the somehow punk history of the DIY, which is closely linked to the autonomy of production and whose effectiveness sounds like a call to action. You want to make a book? DO IT!
Does your status as an artist encourage you to consider publishing as a field of artistic exploration? Are the chosen formats, papers, printing methods used at Connoisseurs more artistic than in an ordinary publishing house?
The technical register that we have is, as we have said above, guided both by our economy and by our sensitivity. The technical-office field already offers a huge choice of reproduction techniques and materials. In addition, we are very attentive to the experiments that the designers with whom we collaborate would like to carry out. We even like to encourage them. For example, for the book KARINA BISCH. ELLE PEINT, the Dutch graphic designers Experimental Jetset developed a radical and innovative colour on black and white printing principle developed with printer Tienkamp.
In the same vein, we have been thinking for several months about creating a pallet book with the artist Camila Oliveira Fairclough whose shape will undoubtedly end up being cut by hand…