Knights Arts Challenge Finalist Amanda Keeley Plans to Stage Pop-up Bookstores

Despite Miami's rapidly evolving art scene, most Miami locals can't afford to buy any of the abundant work on display. Knights Arts Challenge finalist Amanda Keeley says artist books are the best way to clear that hurdle. Keeley's project, EXILE Books, is a traveling pop-up store installation dedicated to selling, supporting, and promoting publications produced by artists.

"Artist's books are not a traditional catalogue about an artist's work; the book is conceived of as a work of art in and of itself," Keeley said via email. "Therefore, it allows the artwork to be mass distributed, be affordable, and accessible to a broad public. It gives the artist a strong voice, and it is this style of communication that I am drawn to."

See also: Knight Arts Challenge South Florida 2014 Finalists Announced

Keeley has always found inspiration in artist's books. Prior to moving back to Miami, the visual artist was a manager of New York City's Printed Matter, Inc., the largest non-profit artist's bookstore in the world. She believes Miami's role in the international art community makes an artist's publications venue essential to the city and reflects the way art and history is shared in a modern world.

"Contemporary artists are now actively engaging in a dialogue with art history. There are so many artists utilizing appropriation in their work -- intentionally borrowing, copying, and altering preexisting images and objects," Keeley said. "This is the contemporary art climate and for people to have an understanding of this, it is important to know your past. Artists are in a constant state of investigation of history, recontextualizing this material, transforming it, and making it fresh again. If we want to know what is new and now and what's next, this is it."

EXILE Books will set up shop in various venues in Miami, with each installation thematically curated by Keeley. She researched bookstores and pop-up shops from around the world to come up with a design that's transported in modular components and easily assembled on site. The visual look of the installation is inspired by Donald Judd's classic minimalist sculptures combined with the Memphis Group-style, adding bright colors and bold patterns and shapes.

Materials on display at each pop-up will include books, publications, editions, LPs, and printed works by the participating artists and works that have inspired the participating artists. Additionally, rare, out-of-print reference materials (in the form of facsimile copies) will be featured in a reading area that people can handle and browse. The premiere of EXILE Books will be held at Locust Projects in September, featuring painter Sarah Crowner. Crowner will create a large installation that references the history of stage and set design, with Keeley sourcing titles about set design, theater and dance performance for the location.

"One of the reasons that I am drawn to Miami's art scene is that there is an atmosphere here which encourages experimentation; artists can do things that they would never be able to accomplish anywhere else," Keeley said. "EXILE Books is experimental and revolutionary and Miami is the perfect home for it."

Some Miami art supporters have already jumped on board. Exile Books was awarded FEAST Miami's inaugural grant at its dinner and ceremony last month, where diners picked one of five South Florida finalists to receive donated funding for their project. If selected, Keeley hopes to use the Knights Arts Challenge funding to take EXILE Books even further with a calendar of events that brings international artists and curators to Miami, educates the public, and supports local artists and publishing houses with a platform to present their own projects.

Follow Shelly Davidov on Twitter @ShellyDavidov.

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