Friday, February 15, 2008

Volume: The mega book throws its weight around

Anyone got a small crane I can use to lift my art books up onto the shelf? What is it about art books and size? Forget small is beautiful. The last five years of art publishing looks like a serious competition about who can produce the biggest, heaviest book with the most pages. The first example I recall was SUMO, a monster book of photographs by Helmut Newton. I've checked out its vital statistics: a massive 50 x 70 cm (20 x 27.5 inches) and 464 pages weighing in at 30kg (66lbs). If you're worried about how to lift it, don't. It comes with its own collapsible table. I mean that in the portable sense of the word.

If you think it would be nice to read one of those monster books in bed, the seven volume set of Andy Warhol's Interview magazine is probably for you. It incorporates wheels and a handle so the whole caboodle can move around like airport luggage (it's in my Parkland lounge). Just as well, we're talking about 996 pages and 28kg (57 pounds) of gossip. Another Taschen heavyweight is due to appear this year. Look forward to 606 pages on Jeff Koons and you can even opt for the special edition which includes a sculpture.

The leader in this heavy weight industry is Taschen. Started by Benedikt Taschen, this publishing powerhouse has revolutionized a sleepy art book market. Perversely, given the size of some of their recent publications, the word Taschen means “pocket”! Taschen don’t just understand weight and size, they get that mystery, sensuality and intimacy are all part of the allure of the mega-book trend. People want more than the “e-r” words, bigg-er, heavi-er and long-er. That’s why many of these media monsters feature intimate gestures that put them into Lovemarks territory. A favorite example? The unique addition to each copy of the 544 page, 6kg (13 pounds) Stanley Kubrick Archives: a strip of Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey cut from his personal print. Magic.

More publishers are getting into this heavy weight market, so I'm off to the gym so I can catch up with a bit of art book reading later today.