Bookartbookshop: successful bookselling turns to art

The eye-catching Bookartbookshop in Shoreditch

The eye-catching Bookartbookshop in Shoreditch Pic: Cristiana Bedei

A third of independent British bookstores have shut down in the past ten years, but Bookartbookshop proves that niche markets and alternative business models can still thrive.

The bright red shop is on the corner of Pitfield Street, in Shoreditch and stocks a quirky selection of limited editions and artists’ publications.  It has been attracting enthusiasts for almost 13 years.

Chiara Ambrosio, a London artist working in the store said: “It’s not just a business, it’s mainly a crossroad.  It survives because there is a need for it. People come here to consult books and meet like-minded individuals and artists. It’s really a resource.”

Owned by former publisher and editor Tanya Peixoto, the little store specialises in ‘art books’: books designed by artists as conceptual and material works.  For Chiara the books are about more than simply the text.

“Only half of the experience of reading is in the actual words, even more so with artists’ books, as there is so much care put into choosing what paper is used, how it is bound, the printing process, the smell of it.”

She is sipping a coffee behind the small counter while people wonder around, their heads dipped into the tall wooden shelves packed with crafty magazines, hand-drawn booklets and poetry fold-outs.

Inside Bookartbookshop

A wide range of books are showcased inside the store Pic: Cristiana Bedei

Rare editions and small runs include entire catalogues from independent publishers, covering avant-garde culture of the past century – from Dadaism to Pataphysics.

To resist the downturn, bookstores need to become cultural destinations and creative hubs: Bookartbookshop organises meetings, readings and events, stimulating discussion and encouraging participation from the community.

Chiara said: “The windows are exhibiting spaces, there is a regular turn around of artists and we have openings. The idea is to keep the space as a vibrant place for encounters.  Everything comes from encounters, Tanya goes around fairs to find what fits within the spirit of the place, but then a lot of people just turn up at the shop. There is a place for everybody, within reason! Any book that has a very strong intention will be welcomed.”

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