It's a really difficult task to write only a little bit about Bologna and to make it with a personal approach. If I would try to do it I would only say that I have went there twice and never came back the same person or the same illustrator. For the rest of you who perhaps have never attended the fair and have considered going there I will do my best with a more unbiased description. For the rest of you who have already been there this article might be just a boring description far away from the vividness of the real experience.
Since 1963 Bologna Children's Book Fair opens each year to reveal the trends in the children's multimedia and publishing industry. At this point it is considered the most important international event of it's kind and it gathers more than 1000 exhibitors and a diverse program of events for the attendees - exhibitions, presentations, debates, seminars and meetings. The fair it's closed to the public at large but opened for four days to publishers, writers, illustrators and designers, organizations, literary and art agents, distributors and journalists that report on the latest news in this field.
One country is selected each year as a Guest of Honor to exhibit it's best books and illustrations and if in 2010 Slovakia did wow me with it's exhibition, this year was Lithuania's turn to do it with a simply amazing display containing the illustrations and the published books containing them. Everything was enclosed in a large, thick and white wall with little doors that opened in a German Advent calendar style revealing a varied collection of amazing illustrations selected from 32 of the most famous Lithuanian illustrators of all time. Kęstutis Kasparavičius, one of my favorite ones was there as well and as I have found out today he was actually in town too.
I just came across their website and wept on a few things I have missed. Now I'm trying to comfort myself and to get used to the idea that it's impossible not to miss a few very important things in the end. Although I'm a usually focused person, when I'm around amazing books I tend to have the attention span of a mouse inside a cheese cupboard.
I just can't help it so it's better to get used to it.
Lithuania's presentation did not stop here, though. Three other exhibitions were held in the center of the town. One was focusing on photography and other tow on illustration. I only had the chance to attend the opening of ILLUSTRARIUM - Soviet Lithuanian Children’s Book Illustration and it reminded me of a time (not so long ago) when we were walking the same line in this field with the rest of the communist countries. And when it comes to illustration this was not a bad thing at all. Here and there most of the artists that refused to pay tribute to the political system have found a refuge into illustrating children's books which led to transforming illustration into the most creative artistic field. Of course, some of the books were pure communist propaganda but creative nevertheless.
Going back to the Soviet Lithuanian Children’s Book Exhibition what impressed me most (beside the artistic language, of course) was that originals were displayed. Originals coming from the past 50-60 years were kept in perfect shape and presented simply and beautifully with light coming from a side of the display.
Illustration is always at the center stage in Bologna and since I live in a place where sometimes illustrators are not even credited on the cover by the publishing house they work with, it feels me up with joy to be reminded that, yes, we are precious too.
In Bologna, only in the fair area three other exhibitions were devoted to illustration. Jutta Bauer exhibited some of her works as the winner of the BIB Award 2010 and Philip Giordano, the winner of the 2010 SM International Award for Illustration, has also displayed his recent work together with a filmed interview.
He was attending the fair too and was launching his newest book La princesa Noche Resplandeciente, an amazing story about the impossible love between the Emperor of Japan and the Princess of the Shining Night.
The famous Illustrator's Exhibition was there as well as it has been there each year from 1967 onward with the same astonishing quality of works. At the Illustrator's Cafe the jury of the exhibition have presented their criteria for selecting only 76 participants out of more than 2000.
Kitty Crowther and Nikolaus Heidelbach were also exhibited in town but I only saw the second one (twice!).
Shaun Tan was awarded the Astrid Lindgren prize and the announcement was transmitted directly to Bologna.
Check out here what Shaun Tan wrote about receiving it.
It came as a big surprise for me (but definitely a good one!) since the nominee list was really long and filled with great names like Quentin Blake, Eric Carle, Wolf Erlbruch, Jutta Bauer, Lisbeth Zwerger, Gabriel Pacheco and many, many, many others and not only great illustrators but 175 people and organizations to be precise.
Each year Bologna rewards the best books trough the BolognaRagazzi Award.
Esope's FABLES, published by the French ÉDITIONS MILAN has won the Fiction category and
I was happy to see that A HOUSE OF THE MIND: MAUM from CHANGBI PUBLISHERS of Korea has won the award for Non Fiction category. Two years ago I had the chance of meeting Iwona Chmielewska in Warsaw while she was presenting her work during a symposium. She is a polish illustrator who's very popular on the Korean market.
MIL-FOLHAS – HISTÓRIA ILUSTRADA DO DOCE by COSAC NAIFY (Brazil) has won the New Horizons category and Opera Prima was given to MONSIEUR CENT TÊTES, France, ÉDITIONS MeMo.
What I have come to appreciate at the Bologna Children's Book Fair is the novelty of the information. I only realized it this year when I went there with just a slight idea of what can be done in the digital publishing and I came back with many questions answered.
Another thing that I love is the diversity of the books and illustrations styles. And it's so great to see that diversity is encouraged! From an overload of cuteness to the cutting edge, everything is there. From vector art to traditional metal engraving, everything is there. From old masters to the newest people in the field, everything is there.
This year I also had the chance to be there too with a small display of work as each year the Romanian Ministry of Culture and National Heritage is inviting one illustrator and one writer to attend the fair and to exhibit their work at the Romanian stand. I'm really thankful for this honor.
If this presentation wasn't enough add those 60 seconds to it too. They were filmed by Bart Moeyaert (one of the Astrid Lindgren award nominees!)