After four annual instalments in Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam and Cologne, and several offshoot events in cities across Europe, the fair celebrates its fifth anniversary in Modena, Northern Italy.
If you love books, magazines and fanzines about graffiti, street art, urban exploration or street photography, don’t miss this extraordinary weekend-long meeting of cutting-edge, independent and underground projects. With an exciting public programme of lectures and book launches!
Most of our international friends will not be able to join us this time, and we will miss them. But the Italian graffiti publishing scene is thriving, and the fair is the perfect space to celebrate it. Enjoy!
➔ Palestre La Fratellanza 1874
➔ Via A. Piazza 70
➔ Via Nicolò Biondo 86
➔ Saturday: 11 am–7:30 pm
➔ Sunday: 11 am–5 pm
Local producers: Pietro Rivasi and Elia Mazzotti
Partners: Ovestlab, Amigdala and Urbaner | Media partners: MoCu Magazine – Ass. Cult. Stòff and Pervenio | Music by Outer Festival | Catering by Genuino Clandestino and Alimentazione Ribelle | Beer by Beer Belly
Author | Varese
Author | Bologna
Atypical – Urban Vision
Zine | Torino
Fanzine | Milano
Magazine | Almere (NL)
Magazine | Frankfurt am Main
Cities At Night
Publishing house | London, Torino
Publishing house | Padova, Roma
Gallery | Modena
Publishing house | Paris, Athens
Publishing house | Stockholm
Magazine | Italy
Publishing house | Strasbourg
Faces n Chases
Magazine | Athens
Book series | International
Collective | Milano
Fanzine | Milano
Grog Lifestyle Zine
Publishing house, bookstore | Berlin
Il Cerchio e Le Gocce
Cultural association | Torino
Author | Dresden
Publishing house | Milano
Last Night of Earth
Fanzine | Reggio Emilia
Lazy Dog Press
Publishing house | Milano, Verona, Modena
Author | Milano
Author | Imperia
Acreenprint studio | Modena
Museo degli Usi e Costumi della Gente Trentina
Museum | San Michele all’Adige (Trento)
Publishing house | Basel, Saint-Louis, Weil-am Rhein
Craffiti crew | Athens
Publishing house | Marne la Vallée (FR)
Author | Augsburg
Magazine | Torino
Zine | Bologna
Publishing house | Madrid
Gallery | Reggio Emilia
Whole Train Press
Publishing house | Foggia
Zine | Rome
Collective | North Rhine Westfalia
Magazine | Essen
➔ 13:00 — Official Unlock print launch
By Chob THE
Printed by Medulla
With Medulla founder Davide Montorsi
➔ 15:00 — Book launches
‘Once Upon a Yard’
With author and publisher Arianna Rubini
Published by King Koala
With editor Shyla N and publisher Jacopo
With author and publisher Sebastian Bühler
Spraytrains 10 Year Anniversary 2010–2020
Published by Spraytrains
With editor Chiara
With publishers Press Press
➔ 17:00 — Lecture
‘Le scritte dei pastori’
By Marta Bazzanella and Giovanni Kezich
➔ Includes the launch of the book Shepherds Who Write, edited by the speakers for BAR Publishing
➔ 20:00 — Book launch
‘Taking Over, The Book’
With editors and publishers Emiliano Properzi, Edoardo Vancini, Giovanni Mazza and Michele Tomasini
‘Roma Subway Art’
Published by Whole Train Press
With editors Mathieu Romeo and Lorenzo D’Ambra
➔ 14:00 — Lecture
‘La Vendita di Dresda by Cargobike’
By Jens Besser
Includes the launch of the zine Cargo Tour de Saxe, published by Besser
➔ 14:20 — Publication launches
‘Manuale di calligrafia’
Published by Lazy Dog Press
With co-author Luca Barcellona and art director Francesco Ceccarelli
‘Grafemi issue 1’
With editor Andrea Ceresa
Published by ADC Spontaneous Press
With author Tony Pastello
‘Graffiti Minded issue 1’
With the editors
‘Feel my emptiness’
Published by Club 27
With author Andrea Rodolico and editor Pietro de Cillia
The local Unlock team is also behind a series of related events taking place in Modena during the weekend under the platform Urbaner. You can get updates at urbaner.it.
➔ Writers from across the country will gather on the Saturday for a large painting event in memory of our friend, Italian graffiti king Repo.
➔ Solo gallery show by Luca Zamoc.
➔ Solo gallery show by NemO’s.
➔ Joint exhibition by Ericailcane, Bastardilla and Hitnes.
➔ Joint exhibition by Francesco Barbieri and Oker GSD in the neighbouring city of Reggio Emilia.
After taking the fair to several large European cities, it has been a welcome change for us to work in a small town such as Modena. Big cities are interesting, but we are partial to the cosiness of a smaller community, where a project like Unlock can have a larger impact and develop a tighter collusion with the local scene.
Plans for this fifth instalment of the Unlock Book Fair were the most ambitious by far, with keynote speakers flying from Los Angeles, New York and Melbourne, and a program packed with international highlights and juicy extras. However, travel restrictions forced us to defer most of our content and rethink the event.
In the end, a few publishers made it to Modena from France and Germany (thank you folks!), but the main focus of the fair was laid on the thriving Italian graffiti publishing scene.
This year’s list of exhibiting publishers was no shorter than usual, even if more than 90% of them were Italian, which is testament to the amount of publishing work coming out of Italy these days. We were honored to host the launch of milestone books about the culture’s local history, and happy to provide space to an inspiring crowd of smaller projects.
Among the new magazines presented at the fair was Milan-based ‘Graffiti Minded’, a selection of photographs from a long list of top-notch names in the international train-writing scene. Featuring only high-quality and unpublished photographs printed full-spread, ‘Graffiti Minded’ represents the logical end of the evolution that took us from the typically packed and poorly designed magazine layouts of the nineties towards today’s prevalent art-quality editorial approach.
A similar perspective was adopted by imprint King Koala, also from Milan, in the production of ‘Greatest Hits’, a beautifully boxed trilogy of volumes exploring three of the main methodologies in graffiti – trains, wall burners and throw-ups. In a time when prolificacy has become the main value for many in the scene, ‘Greatest Hits’ emphatically places style back at the center of the picture, by featuring only carefully selected works from eleven Italian masters.
As serious lovers of tags ourselves, we were happy to host the launch of three publications exploring the field of handstyles. One of them was ‘Manuale di Calligrafia’, edited by the Associazione Calligrafica Italiana and published by Lazy Dog Press. Although not a book about tagging, it includes the work of star calligrapher Luca Barcellona, who cut his teeth as a graffiti writer in the streets of Milan.
In his talk at the launch Luca raised the obvious but neglected fact that tagging is a form of calligraphy –actually, we would add, the only form with any real weight in the cultural landscape of western countries– and warned about how prejudices regarding which surfaces can be written on prevent many viewers from appreciating tagging as a form of art.
The second handstyle-related book launched at the fair was ‘Grafemi’, a whimsical project by Varese-based publisher Andrea Ceresa. The publication features work from five masters from the forefront of the European handstyle scene, which has evolved in recent years towards audacious and inspiring directions. ‘Grafemi’ is printed on actual Pigna brand calligraphy copybooks –a beloved standard in Italian schools– and had its title printed on the back cover, so the original cover of the copybook remains intact.
The publication reflects on graffiti as a school of calligraphy, and on how it relates to the handwriting taught to children. While the latter enforces order and is conceived to convey clear messages, the former enjoys going over the line and is gleefully lacking of any content. In the words of Andrea, a graffiti name may not really be a word, but only a grapheme (‘grafemi’).
The third event revolving around tags was the lecture ‘Le Scritte dei Pastori’, presented by Italian researchers Marta Bazzanella and Giovanni Kezich from the Museo degli Usi e Costumi della Gente Trentina. Both specialists have developed a thorough study of the thousands of adorned signatures left by lone shepherds in the highest tracks of the Val di Fiemme, in the Italian Alps.
This fascinating tradition was practiced between 1550 and 1950, and, amazingly, many of the marks survive in perfect condition. As part of the lecture, the speakers presented their co-edited book ‘Shepherds Who Write’, a collection of texts about European pastoral graffiti from ancient to modern times.
As representatives of the informal but fruitful research sphere developed within the graffiti scene, we at Unlock were particularly glad to host this talk. We are eager to welcome further contributions from academic and institutional researchers.
A most anticipated moment in our programme was Saturday evening, when we hosted the launch of two very special publications. The first one was ‘Taking Over: The Book’, a volume featuring facsimile reproductions of all issues from Bologna-based fanzine ‘Taking Over’.
Founded at the turn of the century, the project was the brainchild of Italian graffiti king Repo. It started as a humble xeroxed A5 zine and eventually became a widely-distributed, offset-printed Italian graffiti institution, while maintaining its uniquely free distribution and its focus on bombing.
After Repo’s untimely death, his friends put together the book as an homage to his exceptional influence, and included in it unpublished photographs of the master’s graffiti.
The second highlight from Saturday evening was the launch of the volume ‘Roma Subway Art’, published by Foggia-based imprint Whole Train Press. Founded and directed by Domenico ‘Ryo’ de Girolamo, a beloved figure who sadly passed away recently, the weight of Whole Train Press in the Italian and international graffiti publishing scene is difficult to overestimate.
Their catalogue is appreciated for its focus on art-quality monographs of writers, books on the history of the culture, narrative and critique. ‘Roma Subway Art’ was probably the most anticipated book in Whole Train’s decade-long output, and its first run sold out in days. It covers the entire history of graffiti on one of the most iconic subway systems for the worldwide writing community, starting with the very first, unpublished pieces.
The launch of the Unlock Book Fair 2020 official screen print kicked-off our events program on Saturday morning. The print is produced by Modena’s own Medulla screen-printing studio, known for their careful selection of natural papers and inks.
With a limited run of 50 copies, this year’s official print was designed by renowned Italian writer Chob THE. The design is an illustrated recount of the various graffiti-related events put together by our partner Urbaner during the weekend, of which Unlock was the central feature. Copies are still available for purchase at medullamade.com.
The months preceding the fair were turbulent worldwide, and its taking place was not fully confirmed until days before the date. Distancing regulations forced us to spread the fair over two different venues, and to cancel some very special content from our public programme. But the hard work of our local team made the fair a reality against all odds. Thank you guys!
We thank the Municipality of Modena and the Fondazione di Modena for supporting the event financially and logistically. A heartfelt thank-you as well to the publishers and guest speakers, to the visitors, and to the staff of the Municipality, Amigdala and Urbaner, who worked behind the scenes with utmost efficiency.
Without your trust and support this dream would never have been possible. More next year! 📚🔥❤️🎉