Art subscription service Wombat thinks inside the box
Since 2013, the Paris-based art publisher has been delivering reasonably priced, beautifully boxed photography prints
Nocturnal creatures of Paris might have hazy memories of art collective Wombat from the 2000s. For a decade since 2002, free weekly ‘Wombat packs’ were distributed outside concert halls and nightclubs, each illustrated by a different emerging artist.
This romantic (if unsustainable) mission has since morphed into an equally interesting art subscription model, which continues to share Wombat’s know-how and passion for visual arts with a growing international audience. Since 2013, the ‘Wombat pack’ has been transformed into a quietly beautiful art box, printed quarterly, and filled with limited-edition prints from some of the world’s most exciting and renowned photographers. It’s delivered to your door, on a subscription basis, for under €200 a year.
Each box is hand-assembled, numbered and dated in the artisanally savoir-faire Wombat Workshops in Père Lachaise (aptly around the corner from where fabled photographers and artists are burried in Père Lachaise Cemetary). Each contains a numbered photographic print, a creative portfolio on fine-art paper, and editorial artist biographies, in both French and English.
Solidifying its rise from punkish midnight street distributor to refined indie publishing house, Wombat produced a box in collaboration with photography powerhouse Magnum in 2017, in celebration of its 70th anniversary. Shortly after, Wombat piqued the interest of Centre Pompidou, launching a collaborative box dedicated to the contemporary Chinese artist Liu Bolin (Box No. 30). Distributors now include some of the creative industries leading names. The bulk of locations remain in Paris, but there’s a growing and dedicated distributor base overseas, including Claire de Rouen (London), Foam (Amsterdam), and Dover Street Market Ginza (Japan).
Last year, a special collaboration with William Klein sent continued art world fervour Wombat’s way. The box (ordinarily bound in a muted, mint-blue shade) was rendered in a punchy red, that turns almost orange in certain lights, picked by the then 90-year-old Klein himself. The title, which usually appears in Wombat’s signature Garamond typeface, too, was replaced by Klein’s own penmanship.
Boxes dedicated to the likes of Brit art-star Jack Davison, New York street photographer Joel Meyerowitz, Swiss master of documentary René Burri, and most recently, Stanley Kubrick, were to follow. But, despite the growth of its audience and the celebrity of its artists, Wombat has retained a Paris-artisan style, keeping its craft-centric production methods and small-batch ideology close. The Wombat Manifesto, fiercely adhered to, sees to that. ‘See the world differently,’ it enthuses, among its seven precepts. ‘Raise consciousness through the power of art. Publish socially-committed artists. Always do better.’ §