Two frontiersmen race through the foreground atop their steeds, muskets in hand, as they hunt a grand buffalo.
“It’s big, it’s dramatic, it’s rare, it’s fabulous,” says Christopher Lane of the Philadelphia Print Shop West, referring to the large print of Currier & Ives’ “The Buffalo Hunt.”
And a beautiful watercolor by St. Louis artist Barbara Martin Smith depicts the Alton Bluffs as viewed from a riverboat in the fall.
The room will be full of such treasures, for sale by national and local dealers, this weekend at the Mercantile Library’s 10th anniversary Fine Print, Rare Book and Paper Arts Fair. Proceeds from the event, held at the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ J.C. Penney Conference Center, benefit the Mercantile Library collections acquisition and conservation funds.
“We have rare books, fine printing like artist’s presses,” says Julie Dunn-Morton, curator of fine art collections at the Mercantile Library. “We have artists doing original work, watercolors, pastel, and we have people who make their own paper, make boxes — so even things that are made from paper.”
Indeed, the fair takes pride in presenting a range of works.
“They really make it a very varied mix, and I think that’s very attractive,” says Susan Teller, owner of New York’s Susan Teller Gallery. “It’s one of the reasons that people find it fun to come to see it. People have some idea of what they’re going to see, but then there’s the unexpected as well, which makes it a really nice, pleasant atmosphere.”
Works can be priced from $1 to $10,000, piquing the interest of both exclusive art collectors and curious children.
“I remember last year, one of my favorite sales was to a student, and she had to borrow 75 cents to buy a postcard,” says Smith, one of the fair’s returning artists. “I’m trying to have a booth that represents my work well but also reaches out to the people who come to the fair.”
The fair begins with a preview party Friday evening. On Sunday, Mother’s Day, guests can enjoy free frozen custard from Ted Drewes, send a postcard in honor of their mom, tour the Mercantile Library and watch demonstrations by some of the artists.
What St. Louis Fine Print, Rare Book and Paper Arts Fair • When 6-9 p.m. May 6 (silent auction and preview party), 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 7, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. May 8 • Where J.C. Penney Conference Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, 1 University Boulevard • How much Two-day pass for Saturday-Sunday is $5-$10; three-day pass, which includes Friday’s auction and preview, is $25-$50, discounts available • More info 314-516-6740; printfair.umsl.edu