by Cecilie Størkson

As I’m writing this, the book fair is about to end. There’s lots of people at Kunsthallen still, but only one hour left to browse and buy books.

Friday evening, I was attempting to describe to someone what I like so much about art book fairs. One thing I realized then, is that an art book fair has the power to really transform a space. It can turn an old, empty building into a flourishing art space, but it can also make a formal white-cube gallery feel like a buzzing marketplace. I love Bergen Kunsthall the rest of the year, too, but during Bergen Art Book Fair it almost feels like a second home: a place where I can easily stay the whole day, alternating between chatting with friends, looking at books, eating at Landmark and drinking wine while listening to inspiring people talk about their work.

After last year’s BABF I wrote a text for the Norwegian magazine NUMER, trying to explain how an art book fair can make a place like Bergen Kunsthall feel more spacious. It makes room for creative people of all kinds, and creates a context where participants can place themselves in-between labels. This year, I’ve been thinking about how it feels to be a visitor at Bergen Art Book Fair. I’m sure the fair can come across as chaotic and hectic, specially if it’s your first encounter. But at the same time, this setting seems to make people feel relaxed and… safe? Yes, I think safe is the right word. During my years working as a receptionist at Bergen Kunsthall, I’ve seen many people feel quite unsafe in these exact rooms. And of course: Contemporary art is not always «safe», and it’s not necessarily supposed to be. New experiences are often uncomfortable. Still, I hope that the low-key, friendly and playful atmosphere of the art book fair will make an imprint on it’s visitors, and that it will expand their notion of the art world. Perhaps they’ll even feel like the white halls of Bergen Kunsthall are a bit more theirs, next time they visit.