Photo: Composite by VICE Staff
It’s that time again—the moment to load up your coffee tables and bookshelves with the biggest, raddest art books imaginable from legendary publisher TASCHEN without spending a gazillion dollars. We are very much into every opportunity to buy our way into being cultured, and nothing says “I am deliciously erudite” like the pairing of, say, a Frank Lloyd Wright coffee table book and all the pink, wagging tongues of Ren Hang’s photography. Nothing invites you to stay into the wee hours of the night in a living room, discussing both Hegel and the undervalued feminism of the last 20 seconds of the “Stars Are Blind” video, than a fat stack of smart, horny, creative TASCHEN books.
The publisher is having a big ‘ol Flash Sale just in time for your vaxxed summer swinger/dinner/chiller parties, so we’ve made a short list of our favorite titles to have sitting, oh so nonchalantly, on your IKEA coffee table. We believe in you.
Sneaker Freaker: The Ultimate Sneaker Book
Any book that has the word “sneaker” in its title twice is going to be really, really good at documenting the global sneaker phenomenon that has swept the tides of streetwear over the years, and the cult magazine that documented its rise. The first book of its kind, Sneaker Freaker compiles over 650 pages of the most iconic sneakers with extreme attention to detail. The Guardian called it “a coffee table classic for rubber sole obsessives,” and we’re calling it your next not-birthday present to yourself.
Tom of Finland XXL
A seminal figure of everything gay and strapped in leather, we could go on and on about the importance of Tom of Finland’s truly iconic, highly stylized masculine homoerotic art, but if you know, you know. Art and pop culture fans across all genders and sexual orientations love his work, so be warned: This one’s gonna sell out quick.
Library of Esoterica: Astrology
How to intimately understand astrology, when you know almost nothing about it? Look to the art it has inspired over the last thousand years or so, from medieval manuscripts to the creations of Betye Saar. The second volume of TASCHEN’s Library of Esoterica series, this book is both a tome and a guide for learning the ways of the stars, and contextualizing them across time and culture. “There was this one moment [during research],” author Andrea Richards told VICE, “where I sat back and thought, This is exactly the kind of book I want to write, where I get to talk to an astrologer, a NASA scientist, and an Islamic art scholar all in the same day. To me the interdisciplinary nature of astrology is exciting.”
Matthew Weiner: Mad Men
Remember how much Mad Men made the world drool over mid-century design in 2007? No one did it better, or with more detail, from the costumes to the cultural references; the color palette to the sharp script. This two-volume tribute to the series includes production ephemera, on-set photos, notes from the writers’ room, and a bunch of gorgeous set stills, of course.
Frank Lloyd Wright
There have been many architects, man. But only one wore a cape. The mark Frank Lloyd Wright made on design and architecture in the United States is undeniable and almost incomparable; from his Midwestern ranch houses to the melancholic, Mesoamerican-inspired estates in Los Angeles that have featured in films like Blade Runner and House on Haunted Hill. A dive into the architect’s portfolio—this time, with unlimited access given to TASCHEN from the Frank Lloyd Wright archives—isn’t just an exploration of 20th century design, it’s an archive of cultural ingenuity that was far, far ahead of its time.
Lo—TEK: Design by Radical Indigenism
When it comes to confronting climate extremes, the Lo––TEK design movement looks to the wisdom of indigenous peoples around the world who have been mindfully, sustainably, and resiliently tilling the earth forever, basically. As we enter an era of unparalleled technology, a rising human population, and a need for housing, anthropologist Wade Davis explores how the movement can help us reframe our design and ethical, inter-species values.
Cracking open the pages of Genesis is a blended experience so epic and immersive, that it falls somewhere between that one Disneyland ride (Soarin’ Over California?) and whatever it must have felt like to be Moses parting the sea. Photographer Sebastião Salgado’s black and white images capture all the sublime feels of the Amazon, Africa, and everywhere else he went on his eight-year quest to find landscapes and people who live unchanged, in spite of the devastating onslaught of modern development.
Basquiat’s work defined New York City in the 1980s, but the scope of his paintings goes far beyond a single city, or single era; and few held as visceral and unwavering of a mirror up to the topics of capitalism, race, and sexuality as him. Finally, we can see his major works at home with XXL-sized monographs that give every brushstroke the attention it deserves.
Helmut Newton: SUMO
The first edition of Helmut Newton: Sumo was one of the most ambitious books TASCHEN says they’d ever attempted, even if we kind of get the feeling that such is the case with everything they birth. Anyways, this XL edition of Newton’s photography, which found the art in commerce and the commerce in art, is a juicy eyeball feast. It was even revised by his wife, June.
God, we miss Ren Hang. The Beijing-based photographer made subversively beautiful images that stay with us, from octopus tentacles sensually woven into human hair, to a pair of legs divided by red-manicured hands; a woman’s face framed by a peacock, or an erect penis urinating into Godzilla’s mouth. (Yah, this book is very decidedly Not Safe for Work.) Hang died in 2017 at the age of just 29, but his brief career was so rich and so bold, that it garnered over 20 solo and 70 group shows in just six years. The next best thing? Revisiting the best of his work in this book.
There anything Dalí wouldn’t do? From tripped out Alka Seltzer commercials, to revisiting the tarot with one of the coolest deck designs out there, the guy was on fire.
This is a comprehensive exploration of his 78-card deck, originally released by the artist in 1984, but this time it’s been reissued with an accompanying book to explain what all those chalices and staffs and jester-y dudes mean.
Here’s an idea: Pair up this book on 20th-century design dream team couple Charles and Ray Eames with that Mad Men book for a gift that will keep the mid-century design-lover in your life busy buried in the pages for, oh, another week. Then watch them head to 1stDibs to find some of the iconic chairs the duo designed.
Bosch: The Complete Works
Curious to know what it would’ve been like to do acid in the 16th century, and be super afraid of God? Look no further than the works of Hieronymous Bosch, the Dutch painter whose triptyque of heaven and hell has puzzled, enchanted, and terrified the bejesus out of us for centuries. This book is so large, it shows details of the artist’s works that you can’t even see without a magnifying glass.
LeRoy Grannis: Surf Photography of the 1960s and 1970s
Finally, one for those we’ll call the sand romantics. LeRoy Grannis captured all of the sunshine, vans, wipeouts, and longboards of surf culture as it emerged in the 1960s and 70s, and it *will* keep you warm this winter.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so get in there and beef up that bookshelf.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.