8 months ago

Diplomatic World_nummer 56.


INSPIRED BY PLANTIN–MORETUS, STOCKMANS ART BOOKS MARKS ITS OWN STORY ONTO PAPER Stockmans as a company, with its first roots dating back to Antwerp in 1875, is still nurtured and stimulated to grow by the great tradition and heritage of the printer and publisher family Plantin-Moretus (Antwerp, 1548-1876), one of the leading printing companies in the world during the golden age of Antwerp. 142 THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS Anno 2018, communication and information are ruled and biased by the digital world we live in and big data will continue to affect us more and more. Screens are a constant attack on our eyes, brains and nervous system. We need to compensate for this imagery overflow and give our creative brain a rest once in a while with a real, tangible item … a slow old-school book, which takes time to activate and stimulate all our senses. From the origin of a book until its final existence, the creation process is still a ‘slow process’ compared to the communication hysteria via other media. The publishing business in general is under a lot of pressure from digital platforms, and large publishing houses that concentrate on magazines and newspapers are feeling the pressure of media agencies and advertising partners to transform its business model. Paradoxically, at the same time a tangible and beautifully designed and printed book, turned into an object of art, seems to have more impact today than eleven years ago when printing became a commodity and the overload of printed communication played its role. Today Stockmans as a printer and publisher is embedded in the printing group of the De Bie family, a 4th generation company, originally from Lier (BE). The company is now situated in Duffel, and as a commercial printing company it has grown to 110 FTE and an estimated turnover for 2018 of 23 M euro. Antilope De Bie Printing is a construction of 7 companies that have been added to the original printing house. The fact that several independent companies have joined forces has to do with the technological evolutions within the graphic industry, where capital investments are extremely high and the competition of digital media and innovation have put pressure on the total paper volume in the market. There is a contradiction and imbalance in the business model, where digital media evolve at the speed of light while high-end printing technology has an accounting depreciation rate of 5 to 7 years to earn back important investments into new technology. From a strategic point of view, Stockmans has made the choice to specialise in 2 niches as a total service company: the creation, the making and distribution of art books and calendars. For Stockmans, this choice means to produce sustainable products with a longer life cycle, apart from the production process which is driven by ecological factors in the production facilities of Antilope De Bie. Most of the time a calendar rarely surpasses its 12 months calendar period, but when turned into an art object, it can easily survive for years. Naturally, the art books produced by Stockmans are meant to easily surpass the buyer’s lifetime. THE PERSONAL STOCKMANS APPROACH As a publishing company and a production consultant for artists, galleries, institutions and companies, Stockmans engages in an intense and profound process with its partners. For many a book has a special and unique touch, often related to the history or future of the individual

Max Pinckers in full collaboration with masterprinters at Stockmans - Antilope De Bie person or company, loaded with history and life stories. The value and emotion that is related to the production process and the final result, is unique in the world of printing. It demands a very specific approach and competence, which Stockmans has built up during its history. As makers, the publishing house and the ateliers create added value, putting the creativity of the authors into our own energy and design to reflect the creator’s vision, passion and story. Bruno Devos, who has been in the printing business since 1991, and is engaged in several international art projects, tries to feel and encapsulate these compelling stories into a publication. He specifically created his own function to describe what he does and loves to do, curating art books. Taking care of the artists is part of his role. Today, many artists create books that are an integral part of their practice. The book is another medium for the artist to experiment and build his artistic story. Many publications at Stockmans go beyond the regular exhibition catalogue or monograph and are connected as a presentation tool to a specific artistic approach or series of an artist. This creates an extra dimension for both the artist and for Bruno and his team. Books like Margins of Excess, self-published by the young Belgian photographer Max Pinckers, or Wesley Meuris’s book Exhibition Types are compelling examples of this approach. Jeroen R. Kramer’s photo novel Une Femme is also a beautiful example of the book as an artwork. It is the only comprehensive tool for the artist to tell his artistic story. Older publications full of adventure are also an illustration of Stockmans’ vision, for example Lost Angels by Italian photographer Alfredo Falvo, who spent 4 months photographing in Skid Row, Los Angeles. But also an historic book on the history of Cuban cacao or the rediscovery of Flemish artworks in the Museum of Fine Arts in Havana are projects that were initiated in the house. The most recent publication, A layer for my throat came out 11 March. This vegetarian extravaganza between a food stylist, a fashion photographer, a typography geek from Amsterdam, and the Stockmans team, finds its inspiration in recent opera plays performed on stage by the Flemish Opera House. “These projects are so wonderful because they bring creative people together, all enjoying and creating what we are best at. The sum of all of us brings such an energy to this latest project, the book itself is a joy to all senses,” comments Bruno Devos. In the same trend, recent limited edition art publications include Danielle van Zadelhoff’s series Survivors, which is filled with portraits of AIDS survivors from the late eighties that were recently presented at the London City 143