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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > NOVEMBER 2016 > Art on the page

Art on the page

Publishers are finding niche success by curating relationships with major galleries
Robert Charles Davidson, Dogfish, 1999. From Masterworks from the Audain Art Museum, Whistler by Ian Thom (Figure 1 Publishing)

The first time Steve Martin encountered the work of Lawren Harris, the pioneering Group of Seven artist, it wasn’t in a gallery or museum. Browsing through an art book, Martin was immediately drawn to Harris’s bold interpretations of Canadian landscapes. Intrigued, the Hollywood comedian and musician began searching for more information about the iconic painter, who died in 1970. Martin even wrote a letter to Toronto billionaire Ken Thomson, a pre-eminent Harris collector, who gave Martin a private tour of his personal collection. Years later, Martin turned his passion into a job curating a three-city exhibition of Harris’s work, which opened this Canada Day at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario.

Martin isn’t the first person to have discovered an artist’s work via the pages of a book. Even those who have never braved the crowds at the Louvre or the Uffizi Gallery no doubt have encountered images of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s statue of David. More than just gift-shop staples or coffee-table decoration, art books and catalogues serve multiple purposes for those who produce them. They are important educational tools; they extend the revenue from temporary exhibitions; and they provide a way for curators and art historians to explore ideas too complex to include on gallery walls. Greg Clarke, director of the international art book fair Edition Toronto, which took place in October, suggests that publications can also help galleries attract artistic talent. “If the artist can say that a book was produced about their work, that just adds some credibility to their practice,” Clarke says. “So galleries that can offer that to their artists – it’s an incentive for the artist to be at that gallery.”

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André Alexis, Defining success on his own terms; Writers' trust prize authors and editors on 20 years of award-winning books.