One of the benefits of putting up with various New York annoyances is not having to experience really terrible cultural jealousy too often. A good piece of theater will invariably pass through here at some point, as will most musicians, and basically every film ever made. There will be art exhibits that are tied to collections elsewhere, which may or may not evoke pangs of longing, but the odds are in our favor here.
So it was with great pain that I had to accept the fact that I wouldn’t make it over to StolenSpace Gallery, on Brick Lane in London, to see Never Judge…?, a group exhibition in association with Penguin Books. It closed yesterday, which mitigates my envy just the slightest bit, but it really did look like a winner.
Penguin Books invited a wide range of designers, visual artists, sculptors, and photographers, most of them young and many having come up as street artists, to participate. They were asked to create a new cover for a novel that was significant to them, in any medium, the only restrictions being that they should fit the traditional Penguin size and format (198 mm. high x 129 mm. wide).
The results have a palpable energy and look like a lot of fun. As the British design collective We Made This points out in their overview of the show,
The advent of the e-readers (crikey that’s a grim name isn’t it?) like the Kindle and the iPad means that the days of the book cover may be numbered. We’re not entirely convinced by that argument. What we can see happening more is that the book cover will follow the route of the album cover, expanding from a single version out to a whole range of images that gets used across a whole swathe of media – from small thumbnails on Amazon and the iBooks store, to digital covers on the devices themselves, to dedicated websites, as well as short-run high-spec limited edition print versions of the books. Already there’s been a real boom in book-as-object publishing, such as the beautiful editions from White’s Books, where sumptuous production values are paramount. But we really hope that the cheap, disposable paperback doesn’t disappear entirely either.
Amen to that; a cheap paperback with a beautiful cover is a a wonderful thing. Just ask the folks at Penguin.