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ISBN Books & Gallery, Budapest. A bookstore with a gallery on the side

Named after the thirteen-digit International Standard Book Number, Beata Istvanko is the woman behind the bookstore, featuring art and book events

ISBN is an art bookstore and contemporary art gallery. Named after the thirteen-digit International Standard Book Number, ISBN used to identify the various publications found within the store. The bookstore and gallery are located at 1084 Budapest, Vig utca 2. Founded by Beata Istvanko, ISBN is solely a one-woman company.

Working herself, in fact, Istvanko carries out the duties and responsibilities of the gallery and bookshop alone. «I had the idea to build a bookstore with a gallery on the side. I wanted to provide a unique service that wasn’t available in other bookstores in Budapest». The mission and purpose of the ISBN Book and Gallery store is to map, collect, exhibit and distribute Hungarian and foreign language, antique current art publications, artist novels, photo books, art theory as well as exhibition publications.

The physical space opened its doors in December 2017. Since then, the bookstore and gallery have grown and achieved multiple goals Beata Istvanko specified when first launching. The bookstore prioritizes networking and facilitating dialogue between artists and professionals involved in national and regional independent publications. It similarly organizes and conducts professional programs and events related to the art publications and temporary exhibitions on a regular basis.

ISBN is a representation of Hungarian independent publishers, enabling the accessibility of their publications. «Our distribution of books happens predominantly in store. It is significant for ISBN to distribute books in store as several of the independent publishers we stock have few opportunities to showcase their work. We therefore like to be able to give them that opportunity». Stocking such a wide variety of reads in store, ISBN have no intention to stock best or least sellers. It is instead their intention to provide unique and uncommon books.

«I have created a work catalog instead of a workshop. I haven’t felt the need for a workshop and have opted for a catalog which can be viewed online through our website and social platforms. There are options for people to view in store, people habitually like to experience it in person to be able to touch, see and feel the hardcovers». Further, the materials used for the books play a vital role in the display at ISBN. Istvanko contributes that there is a need for in person experiences because we have had so little contact with anything other than ourselves for the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Lampoon, ISBN Interior space
ISBN, INTERIOR SPACE

The bookstore and gallery invite individual and group exhibitions to take place in the gallery space. There are two types of events which ISBN hosts within their store area. Exhibitions in relation to the art/artist are events in which guided tours and talks about the artists’ work take place. ZRH- Mikhail Bushkov and Olga Bushkova is the exhibition currently available at ISBN.

«ZRH is a joint exhibition of Mikhail Bushkov and Olga Bushkova, two Russian-born creative artists currently living in Switzerland. The exhibition contrasts images of artists’ old and new homes. Deconstructing feelings of nostalgia and belonging whilst analyzing both artists’ complex relationship to the notion of home». The exhibition is available online from February 9th to March 12th.

While, the second type of event that takes place in ISBN Books & Gallery concerns the books available in store. These consist of author talks, discussions on topics associated with the books and book club meetings. A recent example of a book event hosted in ISBN Books & Gallery is the Endre Tot: Printed Matter 1971-1981. The exhibition presented a selection of Endre Tot’s work created by printing methods, or pieces vigilantly correlated to the technologies from appropriating and averting various printed material, being works of a typographic nature. It allowed the viewer to perceive the process of the artist’s inclusion into an international network. 

ISBN’s bookstore space

The store also hosts one Christmas publication fair per year and is the seasonal exhibition which takes place. In the past ISBN Books & Gallery have hosted ISBN feat PATRON books – Christmas book market. The event accomplished a satellite programme of PATRON art fair’s Studio of Young Artists’ Association combined with ISBN Books & Gallery. The market included publications of PATRON Art independent publications, zines as well as exhibition catalogs, made available at a discounted price. «When we first opened our store was minute, we had limited space to exhibit or provide events. The Christmas fair allowed us to extend and provide an event that could run for several weeks».

The bookstore space is airy and bright. The shelves feature an array of colorful hardback copies. Designed by Beata Istvanko, the owner of ISBN acknowledges her approach to sustainability in the design element of the store. «I did not hire a designer or architect. Instead, I had a few ideas of how I wanted the store’s aesthetic to appear. I am fortunate that my father has experience in fabrication and was able to help me build shelves, bookcases and other objects found in store. The furniture is handmade, and we used a lot of second-hand and recycled materials, which we redesigned, repainted and renovated to suit the design we wanted to achieve. Our opening times suit the gallery rather than the store. We currently have temporary hours in place».

Lampoon, ISBN details
ISBN, DETAILS

From the January the 5th, ISBN Books & Gallery is open from Tuesday to Friday, 12pm – 6pm, Saturday from 2pm – 6pm and is closed from Sunday to Monday. «We are usually open one hour later, but have had to drop the additional hour due to Covid-19 restrictions. The hours of ISBN have been put in place to help me get items organised in the morning before opening. As I am the solitary employee, there are several aspects which take up my attention in the morning. While, I like to stay open in the evening to be able to suit those who work late into the day, to ensure they have a chance to visit ISBN».

ISBN’s gallery acts as an extension to the store. «The idea in the beginning was to make the bookshop a four-profit bookshop and a non profit gallery space, which is why there aren’t artists which belong to the gallery. We work like a project gallery. Artists usually get in touch with me to present their exhibitions in the gallery space. Until recently there were no artists who exhibited beyond once in the gallery space. Our strategy is to present numerous existing and young artists in the gallery». 

Beata Istvanko was fortunate with the timing of the Coronavirus pandemic. «I was lucky in the Springtime when the Covid-19 hit. I, in fact, planned a space extension and renovation of the store to take place at that time. In 2020 my plan was to close the store for two months during the renovation. The difference was that I was closing the store slightly earlier to reopen in the summer again. Bookstores were one of the few shops that were allowed to remain open in Budapest. Since June I have had continuous visitors. There are people coming to the shop to socialize as there aren’t any restaurants, cinemas or bars open».

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, international travel has been postponed. «I am looking forward to the borders reopening. Approximately fifty percent of my visitors come from abroad. People who are interested in fanzines, artist books and photo books, who found me through social media such as Instagram and Facebook. Since the store specializes in present-day art, anyone who visits Budapest and is looking for these individual interests will be recommended to visit ISBN Books and Gallery. This is one of the reasons I miss my foreign audience these days».

Istvanko explains the difference in value of the books within ISBN Books & Gallery. «Some of my publications, which I am producing in the store, are too expensive to Hungarian people, but for a foreigner it is a normal price. For example, in Hungary a book for thirty euros counts as expensive, and thirty euros is priced as average to people outside of Hungary. I am therefore looking forward to welcoming back our customers from overseas».

Budapest, Víg u. 2, 1084 Hungary

ISBN Books & Gallery is an art bookstore and contemporary art gallery in Budapest founded by Beata Istvanko.

Shanay Taylor

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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