For all the talk about New York being an epicenter of both book publishing and art, the famously edgy illustrated book publisher Taschen has offices in every major world city except the Big Apple.
Based in Cologne, Germany, Taschen has subsidiaries in London, Paris, Madrid, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Los Angeles. It also has its own bookstores, which it began opening in 1998, in Cologne, Paris and Beverly Hills. Next month, New York will finally land on Taschen's map, when its fourth bookstore opens on Greene Street in the city's SoHo neighborhood.
In a district that has morphed from a once-gritty artists' enclave to a high-end tourist destination with luxury goods purveyors on every block, the store's wares should fit in nicely. Taschen's books are known for being lavish, sexy and over-the-top. Recent standouts include the $12,500, 75-pound GOAT (a tribute to Mohammed Ali), and Sumo, commemorating the work of photographer Helmut Newton—a book measuring almost 20"×30" that comes with its own table designed by Philippe Starck.
Like the other Taschen bookstores, the New York location will carry about 1,500 titles, with 85%—90% of them being Taschen books. The stores carry mainly art and photography books, in addition to books of interest to a particular store's region (for instance, expect to see Miroslav Sasek's This Is New York, published by Universe, in the SoHo shop). The non-Taschen books are selected by founder Benedikt Taschen and are often written or published by friends (such as burlesque performer Dita Von Teese, whose Burlesque and the Art of the Teese was published by Regan Books). Beyond serving as another sales channel, the stores function as brand enhancers. The Paris, Beverly Hills and New York stores were designed by Philippe Starck, and the splashy spaces host author signings and book launch events. Eric Kroll, who edits Taschen's Basic Photography series, notes that with their regal and cool feeling, the stores remind buyers of the "pleasure of shopping for books."
Taschen books find readers outside Taschen stores, too, in both independents and chains. However, a book like this fall's Peter Beard, a leather-bound homage to the American photographer, has limited sales venues. Sales director Kora Krines says that because of the book's size (approximately 13"×19" and 616 pages) and price point ($1,900 pre-pub; $2,500 post-pub), most of the interest has been from independents (including Rizzoli and Book Soup) and online retailers, though publicity manager Jason Mitchell says the book is also selling at the luxury department store Barney's.
Changing a book's price pre- and post-publication is not uncommon for Taschen; the house presents its books as art, with the price sometimes increasing just as it would with a piece of artwork. For instance, a book of photographer David LaChapelle's works, Artists & Prostitutes, cost $1,250 when it was published in June 2006, and Taschen just increased the price to $2,500.