At age 18, Benedikt Taschen opened a comic book shoppe in Cologne, Germany. After purchasing and reselling 40,000 copies of a book of surrealist René Magritte’s work at a lower cost, Taschen realised that art and culture shouldn’t be expensive and elite, but accessible to everyone. He began reprinting art books under his name and within a few years had set up subsidiaries around the world. With a focus on affordable accessibility, Taschen soon expanded his subject matter to architecture, design, photography, lifestyle, and classics.
Taschen now has subsidiaries in Germany, Spain, France, Hong Kong, America, Japan and the UK and shoppes in Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Cologne, Copenhagen, Hamburg, London, Los Angeles, New York, and Paris. Despite their massive success, Taschen remains committed to the quality of their books as well as the promotion of a ‘more diverse, tolerant, and enlightened future.’
I first encountered Taschen during a recent trip to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Meandering through the gift shoppe, I was drawn to a wall of big, beautiful-looking books. The first one I picked up was Public Architecture Now! I only glanced at it for a few moments, however, before glimpsing Architecture Now! Museums out of the corner of my eye. From there I picked up Paris Mon Amour before leafing through Hiroshige: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. I was just about to grab the next irresistible-looking book on the shelf when I caught the name TASCHEN on the cover of the book in my hands. Then I noticed it on the book of Parisian photography. And on the architecture books. And on every single book on that wall. And then I got excited.
Who was Taschen and how had I been missing out of the most beautiul books in the world? I had to have them all! I began wildly scanning the shelves trying to weigh my Urchin tendency towards frugality and my Urchin tendency towards obsessively loving books. In the end, the Urchin in me won over (win-win!) My practical side put down the book of black and white photographs of Parisians kissing and selected Architecture Now! Museums and Public Architecture Now!, partially for their exclamation points, but mostly because I justified the purchases by saying that I could use them as travel research.
I’ve only gotten through the public architecture book so far, but have already added the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, the Plaza del Torico in Spain, the Elbe Philharmonic in Germany, the Concert House in Copenhagen, and Les Bains des Dock in France to my travel to do list, along with many more. Here’s a preview that will have you packing your bags and on the next train out of town:
Be sure to check out Taschen’s fantastic website to glimpse the depth and breadth of art they cover. Search any place, topic, or artist and leaf through Taschen’s beautiful book on the subject right from the site. And try to get your hands on one of you can, as they’re even more breathtaking in person.