«The store is located in a thirty square meter room on the museum’s ground floor. The design is simple, with white shelves. At the moment, we are offering around three-hundred-and-fifty titles»
Six Chairs Books in Vilnius
Art historian and librarian Justina Zubaitė once read a story narrated by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist. While travelling across Europe in his youth, he entered a café and ordered six expressos. The waiter brought six chairs at his table. Obrist drank the six coffees in one go. He was not waiting for anyone. He had worked non-stop the previous night and was planning to do the same during the day. Zubaitė referenced this episode when picking a name for her art and theory bookstore: Six Chairs Books.
«The anecdote narrated by Obrist speaks of commitment and devotion to one’s passion. In my case, it is art books», Zubaitė explains. «The original title included ‘6’ as a number, which I later turned into letters. People like to abbreviate the store’s name calling it SCB».
Justina Zubaité, the bookstore’s founder
Justina Zubaité was trained as an art historian in Kaunas, the second-largest city in Lithuania. In 2011 she moved to Paris to intern at Castillo/Corales. An independent art gallery in Belville then run by a collective including Benjamin Thorel, Thomas Boutoux and François Piron. «I interned at the gallery’s bookstore for four months. It was my first time working with art books. I learnt about the versatility of artists’ publishing, its history and ways of distribution. I met artists, designers, graphic designers and publishers, and then developed a passion for artists books», Zubaitė continues.
Back in Kaunas, together with her partner Mindaugas Bundza, she first launched Six Chairs Books at Vytautas Magnus University. A small bookstore open two-three days a week, presenting a selection of fifty titles. These include artist books, theory and philosophy publications. In 2017, the bookstore relocated to Kaunas Artists House, located in a Modernist building designed for Vatican nunciature in 1931 by architect Vytautas Landsbergis-Žemkalnis. Kaunas Artists House is a cultural hub for artistic initiatives. It is also a place where artists and creatives have been gathering since the Soviet era. About five years ago, the institution opened up to performative art, community projects as well as artist residencies.
Kaunas Artists House: Six Chairs Books’ second location
«I re-opened Six Chairs Books with my friend Viltė Girdzijauskaitė. The store was located on the building’s first floor, in a ten square meter room with curved doors from the 1930s. Viltė and I designed the store using what we could find. Furniture that was being given away by friends and spare installation pieces coming from the institution’s activities. We then shaped the store’s selection according to our interests and taste».
«The art history, art theory, cultural critique and philosophy books I selected were, in fact, side by side with publications on science and theory, Viltė’s major. The latest releases were arranged on ‘Book bar’. A unique piece of furniture designed by architect and artist Viktorija Rybakova in 2013, which was lent to us by residencies center ‘Rupert’. The store became a point of reference for local artists, including those that were moving back to Kaunas after studying and living abroad, and a gathering place for book lovers and readers», Zubaitė explains.
At the time, she was working as a librarian at the Reading Room of the Contemporary Art Center (CAC) in Vilnius. A job she had started in 2014, living in between two cities. In 2019, Zubaitė also joined Kaunas Art Book, a fair launched and organized by Kaunas Photography Gallery, as head of the education programme. «The fair was small, with publishers from Lithuania and Latvia participating. The programming was international, with artists such as Berlin-based Annette Weisser reading excerpts from her novel ‘Mycellium’ and Martin Ebner screening his films. This experience therefore allowed me to build connections and discover my attitude towards hosting cultural events».
Lampoon review: Vilnius, the third chapter of Six Chairs Books
As life in between Kaunas and Vilnius became challenging to manage, Zubaitė moved back to Vilnius. Here the third chapter of Six Chairs Books began. In 2019, in fact, she looked for a location, which she found inside the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, a museum focusing on twentieth and twenty-first century Lithuanian art. After a six-month preparation period, Six Chairs Books opened on the ashes of the former museum’s bookstore in February 2020.
«The store is located in a thirty square meter room on the museum’s ground floor, with large glass doors and windows revealing its interior. The design is simple, with white shelves inherited from the previous bookstore. Chairs and seats are loaned from the museum’s exhibitions, which change periodically. At the moment, we are offering around three-hundred-and-fifty titles».
Zubaitė also plans to increase their number and organize the display according to categories. As they can be found on the store’s website, which presents a wider selection. Anthologies, architecture, art history, artists’ books, artists’ posters, artists’ writings, biographies, cultural history, graphic design, education, environment, essays, exhibition catalogues, feminist publications, interviews, literature, monographs, music, periodicals, photography, reprint, theory as well as publications from the 1960s and 1970s.
The bookstore’s products selection
The list of publishers includes local and international names, including After8 Editions, BAK, Koenig Books, Leidykla LAPAS, Mit Press, Printed Matter, Primary Information, Seigensha, and Zone Books. The Lietuviu kalba section features publications in Lithuanian. «Although the store has a non-profit status, it has to break even at the end of the year. The selection indulges my curiosity, while remaining receptive of client’s needs. I wish Six Chairs Books could become a resource for readers, where they could find what interests them and also discover titles they did not expect to find».
One of Six Chairs Books’ priority is the support and distribution of artists’ books. According to Zubaitė «the past year has witnessed a Renaissance of self-publishing in Lithuania. The community of self-publishing artist is growing. I care about ensuring distribution of their editorial projects, which deserve to reach the public instead of being forgotten on a bookshelf».
Reaching out to artists
Among the store’s recent additions is An Ode to Me and My Unborn Children by Ieva Lygnugarytė, released in 2020 in an edition of one-hundred. The book is a confession of a young woman about issues concerning sexuality, paranoia, hedonism, psychological violence, self-conviction as well as denial. These are evoked through drawings, scans, photographs and poems collected by the artist over a six-month period. «Lygnugarytė produced the book after her return to Lithuania from Paris. She then reached out to me to present her project and it is an honor for me to distribute it».
Zubaitė reaches out to artists in turn, as in the case of film director Gerda Paliušytė. For Cecil is her first photographic book, consisting of images similar to film shots dedicated to Cecil Robert, a YouTube music content producer. Last spring, the For Cecil photographic series took place in a Paliušytė’s solo show at the Lithuanian Photographers’ Association.
Feminist publications at Six Chairs Books
Feminist publications are on the frontline within the bookstore’s selection. These include reprints of texts from the 1970s, such as Womens Work by Primary Information, which refers to the namesake magazine edited by Alison Knowles and Annea Lockwood that sought to highlight the overlooked work of female artists working at the cusp of the visual arts, music, and performance. «Publications from the 1970s or 1980s are not archival, but living material. They were the birthplace of discourses that continue to be relevant».
At Six Chairs Books one can also find monographs dedicated to female artists, including Anna Oppermann, Drawings published last year by Inventory Press, and feminist theory books such as 1 Million Roses for Angela Davis edited by Kathleen Reinhardt and the newly released Autotheory as Feminist Practice in Art, Writing, and Criticism by Lauren Fournier.
Six Chairs Books’ first steps into independent publishing
Women, their mental health, treatments as well as complications are at the core of Pathos, an artist book by Lithuanian Dovilė Šimonytė with the format of a graphic novel. In 2018, Six Chairs Books also made its first steps into independent publishing. «I do not follow guidelines, but embark in editorial projects depending on the occasion and funding. Our books stand in between categories, with topics spanning from art theory to literature». A portion of publications – Valentinas Klimašauskas’ Daugiakampis, Robertas Narkus’ Nerijus Rimkus and David Horvitz’ Kaip vogti knygas (co-published with Edition Taube) – are in Lithuanian, while others are bilingual, including English texts.
«One of our first publication was a translation from French into Lithuanian of ‘Anamorphoses ou Perspective curieuses’ by Medievalist Lithuanian art historian and theorist Jurgis Baltrušaitis. Baltrušaitis used to write in French. His work is well-known in France, yet remains niche in Lithuania. The book, edited by art historian Odeta Žukauskienė, is an opportunity for Lithuanian readers to delve into Baltrušaitis’ intertwining studies on perspective, geometry and art history».
Future development at Six Chairs Books
In 2020, Six Chairs Books released A Man with Dark Hair and a Sunset in the Background, co-published with Lugemik. A photographic book by Vilnius-based artist, curator and theorist Paulius Petraitis exploring the impact of visual recognition on photography. Images, analyzed by a computer vision software developed by Microsoft, come with text highlighting the gap between human and machine seeing.
EeK 2014-2018 is a book by contemporary artist Robertas Narkus, who will represent Lithuania at the Venice Biennale in 2022. F-O-N-T-S, a publication containing a collection of twenty-one fonts created by Gailė Pranckūnaitė between 2017 and 2020, was Six Chairs Books latest release.
«In terms of long-term goals, I will focus on making the bookstore financially sustainable. This, in fact, will allow for continuing researching, collecting and producing books, distributing and talking about them. As Six Chairs Books reopens to the public at the end of the month, I will work on expanding the selection towards the historical materials of Lithuanian art history titles, while broadening that of self-publications from Lithuania, and on securing customer loyalty. Strengthening the store’s relationship with the National Gallery, its programming and education department is also on the agenda».
Six Chairs Books
Konstitucijos pr. 22, Vilnius 09309, Lituania
Six Chairs Books is a bookstore located in the National Gallery of Art’s ground floor in Vilnius.