Wednesday, July 26, 2017

ART BIZ | Benedikt Taschen

R to L: Benedikt Taschen and his daughter
Marlene, who is co-managing TASCHEN.
July 27, 2017 – Benedikt Taschen, founder of TASCHEN publishing house, was born Feb. 10, 1961 in Köln (Cologne), Germany, the youngest of five children.

The company he founded, TASCHEN, is a global leader in publishing books on art, architecture, design, culture, film, lifestyle and photography. It also publishes books for children.

Both of Taschen's parents were doctors. From his childhood he read widely and was a comic book fan. At 12, he began a successful mail-order business selling comic books that he purchased second-hand from the United States. In February 1980, the day before his 19th birthday, he opened a 250-sq-ft comic book store, Taschen Comics. From this base he began publishing comic books himself.

At a crucial point in 1984, young Taschen borrowed money from an aunt to buy 40,000 remaindered copies of an English-language on Magritte for $40,000. Two months later, he had resold them all for 10 Deutschmarks each, more than three-and-a-half times the U.S. purchase price at the prevailing exchange rate. Taschen has said that he obtained his B School education about capitalism from Scrooge McDuck:
Scrooge McDuck (R) and a Donald
Duck triplet (L), Huey, Dewey, or Louie.
Basically, everything I ever needed to learn about capitalism I learnt from Carl Barks and his characters Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge. — Benedikt Taschen, The Wealth Collection, Winter 2009.
Taschen saw a gap in the market – unfilled demand for quality art books that were inexpensive and multilingual. Based on his success selling the Magritte book, he published a book on photographer Annie Leibovitz.

By the end of the 1980s, TASCHEN titles were available in more than a dozen languages at moderate prices. Starting in the late 1990s, he became the talk of the art world. Vanity Fair’s Matt Tyrnauer in 2011 reminded us that "Passion Rhymes with Taschen" and called him “one of the few people in business who has the courage to do exactly what he wants whenever he wants to."

The New York City TASCHEN store has a gallery and
offices downstairs. Photo by JT Marlin, July 25, 2017.
Taschen tested the theory with Helmut Newton’s SUMO (as in Japanese wrestler), the largest bound book of the 20th century. SUMO is the company’s most successful title of the last ten years. Newton commented, tongue in cheek:
I have done a lot of books, and I can tell you — without mentioning names — that publishers are not all like him. There are very few like him. Or there are none like him. He is also, I might add, a madman. — Helmut Newton, Vanity Fair, October 2000.
In the same interview, Billy Wilder told Vanity Fair that “Benedikt reminds me of an old-time Hollywood figure. A studio head, someone who is in firm command and has his hand in everything.” Another fan is Matthew Weiner:
Benedikt Taschen is a miracle of taste in publishing … He consistently maintains incredible quality in content and style … He documents both the present and the past in an indispensable way. — Matthew Weiner (creator and producer of "Mad Men"), The Wall Street Journal, February 2011.
Taschen is also a major collector of contemporary art. In 2004, the Reina Sofía Museum dedicated an extensive exhibition to art in his collection. ARTnews regularly counts him to the 200 top collectors worldwide and artnet ranks him first among the “10 Los Angeles Art Power Couples.”

He initially concentrated on German artists like Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen, and Günther Förg. In 2013, Taschen gave 15 works from his private collection to the Städel Museum in Frankfurt to reinforce their collection’s focus on German painting of the 1980s.

Since the late 1980s he has acquired works by Americans like Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons, and Christopher Wool. Benedikt and his wife Lauren Taschen have donated an extensive collection of works by young Americans and Europeans to MOCA in Los Angeles.

TASCHEN still sells many books about individual artists.
Photo of NYC store display by JT Marlin, July 25, 2017.
In 2014, Taschen donated $500,000 to the Wende Museum in Culver City, California, to facilitate the founding of an international center for the exploration and preservation of the culture, art, design, and history of the Cold War.

Taschen has five children. His daughter Marlene has also been working for the publishing house since 2011 and is now a kind of Chief Operating Officer as Managing Director.

Taschen divides his life and work time between Berlin and Los Angeles. TASCHEN has offices in Berlin, Cologne, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris and Tokyo and stores in Amsterdam, Beverly Hills, Brussels, Cologne, Hamburg, Hollywood, London, Miami, Milan, New York, and Paris. In 2014, TASCHEN opened their first art gallery in Los Angeles, and the New York City bookstore has a gallery in the back. The publishing house employs more than 250 staff members worldwide, plus freelance editors who have been consulting for many years.

I visited the New York bookstore in SoHo at 107 Greene Street, between Prince (Ralph Lauren is on the corner) and Spring Streets, a few blocks from the Broadway-Lafayette station on Broadway (B, D, F trains). If you are walking south from Prince Street, it is mid-block before the Tiffany's store. Well worth a visit.