Benedikt Taschen on The Best of All Possible World
By brett sokol
Don’t hold your breath waiting for any of these releases to arrive on your Kindle. While much of the publishing world alternately embraces or gnashes their teeth over the rise of e-books, Taschen merely shrugs at the notion of encroaching bits and bytes: “We don’t regard it as a threat. Our books apply to all the senses—touch and smell, as well as sight. How they are made is as important as how they are read. You can’t translate that into a digital form.”
Taschen is taking a similar approach to his new Beach bookstore, a 1,400-square-foot space inside developer Robert Wennett’s much-buzzed-about 1111 Lincoln Road building. Modeled on similar Taschen outposts in New York City and Los Angeles, this spot is intended to be as much an art installation and event center as a retail site. London painter Toby Ziegler has designed a series of brightly colored, denatured landscapes for the walls and floor, a setting Taschen says matches Miami’s own intensely surreal vibrancy.
He remains mum on the specifics surrounding the store’s grand opening, though given that his wife, Lauren, is Art Basel’s VIP-relations manager for the West Coast—the fair was where they first met several years ago—expect something a bit over the top. There is, after all, a company reputation to uphold.
“We have a very personal program,” Taschen adds. “Bigger publishing houses are part of big conglomerates. Individuality is not often required. They’ll tell their editors from 10 different sides why they can’t do something. As with TV shows, they level too much down to the lowest common denominator. They’re trying to address too many people.” He continues with a sigh: “I never understood this concept. You have to take risks in order to make something special.”
His own editorial philosophy is dramatically simple: He only publishes what he personally loves. And where do these idiosyncratic ideas come from? “They fall from heaven into a prepared mind,” Taschen answers with a chuckle before turning serious. “It’s a huge beautiful world and the mainstream is not what we’re interested in. There’s so much more to explore! At the end of the day we have to stay in business. People have to buy our books. But so far we are in the lucky situation that a certain number of people around the world share our aesthetic. If you can run a business on your passions, and inspire people as well, it’s the best paycheck of all.”
ABOVE: Taschen with Helmut Newton and SUMO on its Philippe Starck-designed table, 1999
photograph by william claxton and neil leifer