November in Tbilisi is as grey as it is in Munich. And so the Tbilisi Book Days, first of their kind, were a real splash of colour against the rainy, cloudy city sky: Set on the Expo Georgia space the Book Days invited visitors not only to buy books from various Georgian publishing houses; there was so much more to see, to hear, to discover!
Over a period of four days, visitors were invited to have a look at various exhibitions – among them an international picture book exhibition, placed in the middle of the central exhibition hall. There you could not only see picture books lent from the International Youth Library, but also picture books that the Book Art Center Georgia had obtained both for the Tbilisi Book Days and to start an international library in the near future. All the books were accompanied by white gloves that visitors had to put on before taking a book into their hands. – Is there a better way to emphasize the value a book has?
Another sparkling highlight: The three illustrators’ exhibitions. Apart from fine Iranian picture book art, curated by Ali Boozari, you were offered great insights into Ukrainian and Georgian art. Illustrations by the Kiev-based group Pictoric plus Lviv’s Agrafka Studio brilliantly pinpointed the rapid, exciting development that young Ukrainian illustration art has been taken within the last three years. And then there was Georgian illustration: Over 30 young illustrators – many of them being part of the Tbilisi-based group Virgam – showed their artwork and thereby made a strong statement about the large potential of illustration from Georgia. Very few of those illustrations have become part of picture books yet (check: Sulakauri publishing!), but they are all featured in a nice catalogue accompanying the exhibitions.
More colour splashes? Professional illustrators were invited to attend the three-day workshop conducted by illustrators Renate Habinger and Verena Ballhaus! And all visitors had the opportunity to hear lectures about picture book apps, stereotypes and authenticity in picture books, and the White Ravens Catalogue. Finally an international panel discussion on the current and the future Georgian children’s book market – its challenges and opportunities, impulses and directions – took place.
To cut this long story short: The Tbilisi Book Days have rolled out the red carpet for the Georgian children’s book art and market; but it is still waiting for more people to walk it.