Taschen vs. Phaidon: Collector’s Edition War

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Taschen and Phaidon. Two art publishing houses with two very distinct reputations. So don’t you think it’s high time for a face-off between the two? Good! Let’s begin with the Collector’s Edition wars.

Benedikt Taschen turned 50 this past February and his debaucherous party was written up in The New Yorker a few days ago. The cult lowbrow publisher never fails to shock and titillate, and his aim to create lasting, limited-edition books has made him a hero to many. On Taschen’s website, Benedikt writes that he “sensed early on that books could open doors to different worlds, and that a world full of artists and free-minded spirits was the world I wanted to be part of.”

The venerable Phaidon Press is now in its 88th year, and it launched by printing a large format Van Gogh monograph in 1936, which sold out within two days of publication. On its website, Nigel Spivey, a lecturer in classical art at Cambridge, writes that Phaidon is named after Plato’s middle-period dialogues on the immortality of the soul. “By means of beauty, beautiful things become beautiful,” Socrates says to Phaidon and company. Which is one way of putting it, we suppose.

The gloves are off, and the niceties have been done away with. Let’s brawl!

CATEGORY: THE BOOK THAT COSTS MORE THAN A NEW CAR

Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Publisher: TASCHEN

List Price: $50,000 each (In case you were wondering, this doesn’t include the price of shipping or insurance.)

Number Available: 6

Details: Includes an original collage and an original silk screen print of Project for Jewelry

WINNER: TASCHEN

Since Taschen’s price is stratospheric, and since Phaidon doesn’t sell anything close to that expensive, we have to declare Taschen the winner by default.

CATEGORY: THE BOOK THAT COULD DOUBLE AS PORN

Terryworld. Art Edition (Asses)

Publisher: TASCHEN

List Price: $700

Number Available: 1,000 (signed and numbered)

Details: Terryworld is “packaged in a clear plastic box with a Terrybear” and also includes four photos, signed and numbered.

Nan Goldin: The Devil’s Playground

Publisher: PHAIDON

List Price: $3,600

Number Available: 100 (signed and numbered)

Details: Includes a signed and numbered print by the Goldin

WINNER: PHAIDON

Terry gets points for the audacity to include a stuffed animal with purchase, but Goldin was the originator of seductive, trashy New York-style photographs of friends and lovers.

CATEGORY: THE BOOK THAT EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT

Helmet Newton’s SUMO

Publisher: TASCHEN

List Price: $15,000

Number Available: 10,000 (signed and numbered)

Details: This is supposedly the largest bound book of the 20th century; it measures just under two feet and just over two feet wide, and weighs about 66 pounds.

Nobuyoshi Araki: Self, Life, Death

Publisher: PHAIDON

List Price: $5,500

Number Available: Unknown

Details: There isn’t a lot of info provided, but we do know that at 15 3/4 x 19 1/2 inches, Araki’s book is the smaller of the two…

WINNER: TASCHEN

Size maters.

CATEGORY: THE BOOK THAT REMINDS US OF A UNICORN

Norman Mailer’s MoonFire (Lunar Rock Edition)

Publisher: TASCHEN

List Price: 480,000 Euros or roughly $664,272

Number Available: 12

Details: This book was inspired by the Apollo 11 Lunar Excursion Module, and each has an accompanying aluminum case and (wait for it) “comes with a unique piece of lunar rock.” We can buy a piece of the moon! How can Phaidon beat this?

Elliott Erwitt: Snaps

Publisher: PHAIDON

List Price: $6,100

Number Available: 1

Details: This is one out of an available six limited edition prints by the impressive Magnum photographer.

WINNER: TASCHEN

Erwitt photographed Marilyn Monroe in the mid-1950s, but sadly even lovely Marilyn can’t beat the moon.

GRAND TOTAL

TASCHEN: 3

PHAIDON: 1

Phaidon remains our favorite for beautiful editions of landmark photography, but Taschen wins the Collector’s Edition War because it knows how to put on a show. And because it had the temerity to auction off a chunk of moon! Good work, Taschen. You earned it.