It’s been all doom and gloom for books and those who cherish them in recent years. However, the opening of Hardcover last month over at the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre proves that there might just be life in the old dog yet. Founded by Shane Suvikapakornkul from Serindia Gallery and Publishing, this gleaming new store is an importer of art tomes from home and abroad, most coming in over the B1,000 mark.
Many, if not all, of the world’s leading art publishers are represented here. From Prestel Publishing’s catalog, we leafed through contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals as well as slickly produced books full of North Korean and Chinese political propaganda posters. We were also drawn to the selection of cool illustrative and graphic art books by UK publishers Nobrow located on a shelf near the door – and Taschen’s new, breeze-block sized James Bond 007 Archives.
It’s not just imported fare, either. There are plenty of regional and homegrown publications up for grabs too: out-of-print Thai exhibition catalogs that Shane has clearly been hoarding; signed copies of National Artist Kamol Tassananchalee’s new compilation of watercolours, Under the Eastern Sky; and more coffee-table books on contemporary Thai architecture than the next Duangrit Bunnag could possibly need. Unsurprisingly, Serindia’s own catalog is also well-represented. Our picks: the excellent 30 Heritage Buildings of Yangon, which traces the modern history of Myanmar’s former capital through its crumbling colonial-era architecture; and its latest release Art of Southeast Asian Textiles, which is a compendium of top Bangkok law firm Tilleke & Gibbins’ prized, museum-quality textile collection.
Whether Hardcover can find its niche in spite of the growing popularity of admittedly rather sexy digital reading experiences such as the iPad and Kindle is not clear, but this much we do know: art book fetishists will find it hard to resist a purchase.