In my interview with collector/curator/dealer Harry Ruhe for the forthcoming Artists Multiples book (out soon! more shameless plugs to come), he brings up Point D'Ironie, the series of artists' newspaper projects produced and distributed by the French fashion designer Agnès B:
HR: ….in Holland, these materials are still not collected by museums. In New York, the MOMA will sometimes acquire works in unlimited editions. Like the Agnès B. magazines, for instance. The MOMA not only has the magazines, but it has the displays from the fashion shops that they were originally distributed through.
DD: Do you see the Agnès B. arrangement as a feasible model for multiples, moving forward—with multiples produced as a promotional item for other industries?
HR: It’s one way. There are so many possibilities for distribution. I like that these artworks are available free, not for sale. Just this afternoon, someone showed me the Thomas Hirschhorn issue from the series. He paid 7.50 euros for it, which is crazy. I have double copies, but I will never sell them. Even after twenty years, I wouldn’t sell it, because the concept was that they were free.
…..A lot of people stay home, and order things from the Internet. I would say, “Forget that! Go out to the fairs, and the galleries, and bookshops. Get out of your chair, and out of your house and see what’s going on.”
To date, 52 issues have been published, with contributors including artists, filmmakers, musicians, photographers, cartoonists, poets, and architects. The series began with Lithuanian filmmaker Jonas Mekas and has included artists such as Lawrence Weiner, Gilbert & George, Douglas Gordon, Roni Horn, Harmony Korine, Yoko Ono, Christian Boltanski, Annette Messager, Claude Closky, Walid Raad, Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha and Damian Hirst. The series is co-curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist and the mandate is to give artists carte blanche to work within the standard format of an 8-page tabloid. Half-magazine, half-poster, the issues consist of two sheets (approximately 43 x 61 cm), doubled sided, folded in half and unbound.
Four to six issues are published each year, with edition sizes varying between 100,000 to 300,000 copies, easily making them the most widely distributed artists' publications. They are made available free of charge, internationally, in bookshops, museums, galleries, schools, cafés, etc., as well as in all of the agnès b. locations (France, Europe, USA, Asia).
Despite the wide distribution and free cost, copies online now sell for between twelve and two-hundred dollars on the secondary market, depending on the artist (with Hirst, Prince and Barney being amongst the most costly). Near-complete sets sell in the thousands. I've yet to come across a complete set for sale.
Below is a spread from Gabriel Orozco's December 1998 issue (which I recall made great wrapping paper for gifts that Christmas), Harmony Korine's May 1999 issue (one of the few I still have left), and the Hirschhorn issue Ruhe refers to, from October 2001. Over the course of the next day or two I'll post other examples from the series.