Cabinet of Curiosities

Chris Byrne's "The Magician"

Catherine D. Anspon
April 01, 2013

It’s been a decade-in-the-making obsession by a gent who’s best known as the co-founder of Texas’ first (and foremost) art fair. As for the result, the mere word “book” seems a delirious understatement. We’re speaking of Chris Byrne’s extraordinary graphic novel The Magician, which debuted to great acclaim at the L.A. Art Book Fair this January. Few who know Byrne from the Dallas Art Fair, or as independent curator, realized this University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts grad was also an artist on a mission. As The Magician so deftly reveals, its author is infatuated with the arcane, the unexplained and the wondrous. We’re hoping this book, which was published by Seattle-based Marquand Books and co-designed by Scott Newton, finds a home at the temple of Surrealism, aka The Menil Collection. This wunderkammer is actually 12 individual publications inside what resembles a magician’s hermetic box of wonders, offered in an edition of 20 with five artist’s proofs. What are the experts saying? Artist Gary Panter of Pee-wee’s Playhouse weighs in: “Chris Byrne has made an alt comic of such invention, thoughtfulness and ambition that only Chris Ware’s artistic production is on a similar playing field,” while PictureBox publisher Dan Nadel says: “The Magician is … a Cornell-ian box, a visual novel, a conjurer’s tool kit. There’s never been anything quite like it.” Inquiries Ed Marquand, Marquand Books,