Saturday 22 Nov, 2008

A hugely enjoyable long weekend in Echirolles, near Grenoble was the culmination of my participation in the international exhibition We Love Books! A World Tour. Curated and organised by the Atelier Michel Bouvet and writer Philippe Di Folco, as part of the “Mois du graphisme d’Échirolles”, France, which took place in November.

The invitation to participate arrived via a contact given by Lizá Ramalho from R2 (thanks Lizá) and included contributions from other Portuguese designers João Bicker, Pedro Falcão (FBA), Manuela Bacelar, and R2. All of us were asked to send 5 books of our choice joining the 80+ designers from 29 countries that made this exhibition a rich and fascinating journey into the world of book design.

The official ceremonies began on the Saturday morning with the opening of an exhibition by the French designer Philippe Apeloig, followed by general introductions to the “Mois du graphisme d’Échirolles” weekend, given amongst others, by our host, the very talented French designer and exhibition organiser Michel Bouvet.

In the afternoon a round-table discussion – which I was asked to join only the night before – was led by fellow exhibition organiser, the witty and dynamic writer Philippe Di Folco.

Round-table debate. (left to right) – Erwin Slaats, Designer (Eden Design & Communication, Holland – now EdenSpiekermann), Guido Scarabottolo, independent designer/illustrator (Italy), Anett Hentschel, independent designer (Germany), Melchior Imboden, independent designer/photographer (Switzerland), John Gall, Vice president and Art Director, Vintage and Anchor Books (USA), Andrew Howard, Studio Andrew Howard (PT/UK), Emmanuel Souchier, Lecturer, Researcher in Communication Science (Celsa, Sorbonne University, France) Philippe Di Folco, Writer (France), Neil Pardington, Creative director, Base Two (Wellington, New Zealand), Walter A. Gronli, See Design studio (Oslo, Norway), 2 translators.

The main exhibition opened late afternoon and contained an impressive collection of books gathered from Europe, Latin & North America, North Africa and the Middle East, Asia & Oceania, with special contributions from New York, Taiwan, Cambodia and Madagascar. All together, as Michel Bouvet writes in his summary below, an astonishing anthology. There is a 496 page, A5 book to accompany the exhibition.

“We Love Books!” presents the work of graphic artists working in the field of book design throughout the world. While entirely non-competitive and by no means exhaustive, the aim of this project is not only to reveal some of the most interesting work being produced in this area, but to highlight the unique conceptual, typographical and visual features inherent to different parts of the world. Despite the inevitable advance of new digital technology, books are currently enjoying an unprecedented creative boom. The book is, in essence, a cultural product – a tool for knowledge and learning. But books also give an incredible account of our modern-day civilisations, and our distinctive linguistic and geographical identities. “We Love Books” creates a kind of Utopia – a place in which works that would never usually share the same shelf-space are brought together to form an astonishing anthology of bibliophilic, graphic and plastic art. The exhibition and the book/catalogue accompanying  “We Love Books” offers everyone – professionals, students and the general public alike – a vast and completely unique panorama of contemporary quality publishing, in which the many cultural facets comprising today’s world converge. 

- Michel Bouvet.

Exhibition photos by Didier Pruvot