Above: Koenig Books, March 2018. Credit: Oscopic.
The closing down of Koenig Books (an independent art bookshop on Charing Cross Road, London), on 17 March 2018, is a sign of the times. It is indicative of the incremental desertification of the high-street. (Just as Baudrillard predicted). And the precipitously declining art book (theory or practice) market. The fact is that for most casual researchers and readers, copious free material available on the World Wide Web, on any given artist, or theorist, is sufficient for their needs. (Tip for art theory: just type any theorist's name into Google followed by "pdf".)
In the context of the Internet, purchasing art books, and/or art texts as hard copy is just too much of a luxury for most. And especially the one mainstay customer that has propped up that market for decades: art students buying book on artists they like. Koenig Books could probably open a branch in Knightsbridge and do fine: only the wealthy art collector can justify spending £35-50 per object as compared with no more than £20 for one month's continuous access to the Internet. For the collector the context is not really the same as the art student's need: when you have just spent £200,000 on a unique artwork, buying a stack of major hardback retrospective artbooks (preferably with the just-purchased piece illustrated!) is no hardship at all.
Within the art industry, the printed hard-copy art-museum catalogue-monograph has never been a book to be read-and-enjoyed, but rather, it functions solely--and perversely--as a basic unit of status: an artist's rank-and-grade can be reliably established by simply counting up the number of monograph tomes that the creator has gained.
(30 March 2018)