The publisher of the "most exquisite books on the planet," as sex- and art-book purveyor Benedikt Taschen likes to call himself, has opened a West Coast outpost. On Nov. 17, 2003, Taschen debuted his first U.S. flagship bookshop (at 354 N. Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills) with a special sneak-preview inaugural party. The Taschen Store, which opened to the public on Nov. 18, was designed by award-winning French uber-designer Philippe Starck, who previously designed his friend Taschen's first store in Paris in 2000.
The place is spectacular, done up Old Europe-style with lots of glossy walnut, cast bronze, purple mirrors, rich leather and handmade glass walls -- and also computer-generated abstract paintings by German artist Albert Oehlen inspired by the pages of select Taschen titles. "It's the Sistine Chapel of the 21st century," Taschen declared. "Not a cold fashion boutique, but a place where people like to stay, and hopefully buy some books."
The store features all of the publisher's eclectic art, sex, film, photo, design and architecture titles as well as books from other publishers. And, of course, it has an espresso bar in the rear of the store along with a glass-enclosed upper balcony in which is displayed a single large-format art book (one of Taschen's many specialities).
Amid flowing champagne and lots of German, many friends of the publisher were on hand to celebrate the opening, including Oehlen, the legendary erotic photographer Helmut Newton, sports photographers Howard Bingham and Neil Leifer, Taschen editor (and former Leg Show editor) Dian Hanson, fetish photographer Erik Kroll and even Las Vegas master illusionist Siegfried Fischbacher of Siegfried & Roy.
Surprisingly, Taschen is now the only bookstore in all of Beverly Hills (Rizzoli closed its store there last year). Note to gallery goers: the store is located near Gagosian Gallery.
Following the successful 1997 release of Newton's infamous Sumo, the 480-page, 66-pound monster that comes with its own stand, Taschen is currently gearing up for its grandest release yet, a limited-edition tribute to the life and career of boxing legend Muhammad Ali entitled Goat (Greatest of All Time) that makes its U.S. premiere on Dec. 4 at Art Basel Miami Beach.
Requiring a boxer's physique just to lift, the 75-pound publication is hand-signed by Ali and Jeff Koons and is available in a limited edition of 10,000 copies for $3,500 each. The first 1,000 copies, otherwise known as the "Champ's Edition," feature an original multiple by Koons as well as four silver gelatin prints by Bingham, all signed by the photographer and Ali himself. Price: $7,500.
The Artist Observed: Photographs by Sidney B. Felsen
Just the day before, on Nov. 16, the UCLA Hammer Museum was the place to be for photography book collectors and enthusiasts, as renowned art print publisher Sidney Felsen was joined by fellow art-world icons Ed Ruscha, Frank Gehry, John Baldessari and Ken Price for the book launch and signing of The Artist Observed: Photographs by Sidney B. Felsen, featuring portraits from the founder of the groundbreaking Gemini G.E.L. publishing workshop in Los Angeles.
Published by Santa Fe-based Twin Palms Publishing in a limited edition of 3,000, the book was presented as part of a special benefit for Change Inc., the nonprofit foundation founded in 1970 by Robert Rauschenberg to assist artists in need of emergency aid.
ALEX WORMAN is a feature film publicist in Los Angeles who writes on art and modern design.