The Storefront for Art and Architecture held its yearly spring benefit on May 7 in the beautiful 19th century Celeste Bartos Forum in the New York Public Library. The room, with its spectacular 30-foot-high elliptical dome of iron and glass, supported on four springing arches, is one of the city’s most dramatic rooms. The Storefront’s benefit always honors a member of the art or architecture community, and in the past, has honored Olafur Eliasson, Archigrammers Michael Webb and Dennis Crompton, Storefront’s founder Kyong Park, Lebbeus Woods, Mary Miss, and Tom Mayne. This year it honored artist Mary Ellen Carroll and book publisher Lars Mueller. The publisher has a reputation for creating beautiful and important books on architecture, and in his acceptance speech, he made an impassioned plea for the “domain” of books. Mueller shared his speech with A/N and we publish it here:
Thank you for the honor. You are honoring a rare species, one which I represent here tonight: that of the independent publisher. Independent imprints used to be the backbone of publishing. Not anymore. In the field of architecture, you will hardly find a handful of them in the United States.
I am proud to be recognized for what I do. To publish books with the best architecture schools of this country, with bright scholars, leading institutions like the Storefront for Art and Architecture or the Chicago Architecture Biennial, also with independent editors and authors, is a privilege and counts, even more, when we consider the location and the size of the publishing house.
Why should relevant American content be detouring through tiny Switzerland? Ok, it is because of me—but also because of the lack of alternatives. Small presses have been forced out of business or have merged with bigger companies. Small-scale publishing, as part of the diverse book culture we have grown up with, is regarded anachronistic in the present time. This puts me in attack mode. If my business plan doesn’t match the standards, it is not necessarily the business plan that is wrong.
In my eyes, it would make a lot of sense, in this city and elsewhere, to preserve and strengthen existing structures in the book domain, and help to create new ones, knowing that the medium is far from dying out.
This necessarily brings me to the precarious situation of bookstores in New York City. Why do we let them die? How can we give them up if we all confess that many of the most beloved and beautiful books in our bookshelves were unexpected encounters in bookstores? It is difficult enough to convince young professionals of the investment of both time and money in books—and more so if we inhibit the analog experience of sudden encounters.
Therefore—if I had one wish—it would be for a landlady or a landlord who would take pleasure and pride in hosting the best-curated bookstore for art and architecture in this city.
With her or him, I would gladly share the honor given to me tonight.