A conversation with Marlene Taschen
On a drooly Thursday morning, MENDO's Mikel van den Boogaard had a very fun conversation about our industry with Marlene Taschen, Managing Director at (- and daughter of Benedikt) Taschen.
On a rainy Thursday morning the phone rings in Amsterdam:
“How are you?”
“Pretty good, quite busy right now with the holiday season coming up.”
“Yeah same here, but that’s great. It’s what we work towards all year long, right?”
It’s quite a hectic week at MENDO, as it is for Taschen. A week in which Marvel’s iconic founder Stan Lee past away, Taschen (coincidentally) published The Stan Lee Story; a limited edition book that had been in the making for nearly fifteen years and evidently sold out within two days after his passing. You could say that this signifies the magnitude of a publisher like Taschen. They work with the absolute greatest artists in the world, and are able to bring them to everyone’s home. How do they do it? To catch a glimpse of the secret behind Taschen’s success, we had a conversation with Marlene Taschen, Managing Director at the namesake company she runs with her father.
This year alone Taschen has published over 60 titles. Varying in all kinds of subjects; from nudes, to cars, to music, photography, and art, Taschen does it all, and all on a high level. Since early 2017, the company’s iconic founder Benedikt Taschen is supported by his oldest daughter Marlene, with whom he now forms the head of the company. “I love working with my father. It’s sometimes a bit difficult because we live in different continents and time zones, but we are in touch regularly. I think we’re a good team. Even though we have two different personalities, we have a unified vision and it feels good to have someone on your side who understands you and supports you. When there are things I don’t know, I have the best person to ask for advice. He is very inspirational.”
That inspirational figure started with a comic book shop in Cologne in 1980 and has transformed that company into one of the most prolific publishers of today. Benedikt Taschen has become a Hollywood star himself ever since he moved into the iconic Chemosphere house in the Hollywood hills. With highs and lows, Benedikt Taschen developed the company to what it is now, with a clear vision, and an all star line-up. “We are quite aligned in the way we see things and what we value for the company. Our goal is to produce the best possible books on whatever subjects we choose. We like to have great variety on subjects and pricing points, but we want to make sure that within every segment we produce the best. The artists and creators of our time are the people we want to work with. We want to make books we are proud of and happy about.”
Taschen was one of the first to produce the great limited edition books. With prime examples being the Helmut Newton SUMO and GOAT, the most expensive production for a book ever. It seems like a huge step from when Taschen first started selling art books for an accessible price. But in Marlene’s eyes the philosophy is not that different. “Our strategy is to create exclusive editions for the collectors, and then create trade editions that are accessible for everyone. We have books that are worth €25.000, but these are more than just books. We want to give people something that holds value. Whether that’s a €25.000 Marc Newson sculpture with a limited edition book, or a €15 art book from our Bibliotheca Universalis. We want it to bring joy into peoples homes, just like we experience joy when we’re making it.”
In Marlene’s eyes it’s all based on passion, enthusiasm, and a little luck. As said, Taschen, as one of the leaders of this industry, has almost managed to create a league of its own. “Part of our success is the unique talent and vision of my father. But I should stress that it is also due to fortunate circumstances. If you don’t have the support and circumstances to use your talent, than it would be a lot harder to achieve something like this. So it is fortunate how things developed from one thing to the next, but of course, it all started with the enthusiastic and unique way my father is. How he combines his understanding of the collector’s world with his artistic vision and his eye for commerce provides for a unique mix that few others have in my opinion.”
‘I think the book as a format is an enduring format.’
‘I think the book as a format is an enduring format.’
A unique mix that has resulted in an array of books on subjects as diverse as can be. When asked about a favorite title Marlene names a seemingly endless list of recent publications like a book on Basquiat, Rem Koolhaas Elements of Architecture, and Sneaker Freaker’s Ultimate Sneaker Book. MENDO has been selling Taschen’s books for many years, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed at the Taschen’s. “Of course we keep an eye on the industry, and we were really impressed with the way you present the books. I spoke with my father about it and we both had to agree that you present our books basically better than we do! You have a great approach, and I like how the editorial work is intertwined with the products. You guys do everything with a human touch, and even though I’ve never been to your store, I still sense that. It’s very personal and contemporary, showing a new way of approaching this industry.”
After kindly receiving these compliments, it’s interesting to see what this “new way” could mean for the future. In an ever-evolving industry, with the symbolical battle between print and digital, do books still have a future? “Certainly. I think the book as a format is an enduring format. If you look at photographers, artists, and designers – they all still see the book as the holy format. The fact that this medium holds such a value among them, says a lot. The great thing about these books is that they’re made with editorial decisions. They are made by someone, for you, and not by an algorithm. And if you have good people working on it, you’ll get a story which you could not have found if you would do it otherwise.”
Taschen works with some of the best artists and editors in the world, which has provided us with, indeed, some great books that could have never been as great digitally. Marlene actually thinks that Taschen has had the best year thus far. “We’ve had a lot of exciting projects going on. So in terms of program, yes. I hope the numbers will back that,” she adds with a laugh. Her enthusiasm works contagious. And come to think of it, we might very well be working in the most fun industry. “It really is, especially this holiday season. It’s a lot of work, but it’s going really well, so I’m happy. It’s a challenging business, but it is also a privilege to work in an industry that has so many enthusiastic, appreciative, and interesting people. It really is a beautiful world to work in.”
We couldn’t agree more.
MENDO and Union present Frame/Work
The first MENDO publication of 2019 is a fact: Frame/Work, created in collaboration with Union, is a book that inspires every young metropolitan citizen.
Shelf Sessions: Emilia Terragni
In our series Shelf Sessions we climb the shelves of MENDO’s friends. In this episode Mikel van den Boogaard travels to Lake Como, Italy to meet Emilia Terragni; Publisher at…
Jimmy Nelson: “I’d like people to participate in what I feel and see”
Renowned photographer Jimmy Nelson will sign the long-awaited sequel to Before They Pass Away at our Berenstraat flagship store, from 14:00-16:00 on Sunday 23 September. MENDO chats with Jimmy about…
What’s crazy about Martin Garrix’s life
In light of the release of LIFE = CRAZY, we talked with the protagonist himself: Martin Garrix.
Who the f*ck is Adam Katz Sinding?
A WhatsApp conversation with the photographer of This Is Not A F*cking Street Style Book
"I wasn't born with much of a filter. So when I see bullshit, I call "bullshit". A WhatsApp conversation with the photographer of This Is Not A F*cking Street Style…
David Bailey’s retrospective will be the newest addition to our collection of Limited Editions. There's more to these books than size alone – they are coveted and exclusive, and with…
Photographer Pie Aerts on capturing beauty
After introducing Pie Aerts, it’s time for a chat about his first book ‘Tales From The Roads Less Traveled’, which is designed by MENDO (expected July 2019), the visual stories…
To celebrate our upcoming book with The Avocado Show, MENDO had a lunch date with its founder Ron Simpson to “peel” the success of the Avocado Show.
Daniel Arsham: Dislocating people in time
On Saturday 12 January Daniel Arsham visited MENDO to sign his new book. In anticipation of the book signing, MENDO talked with the multidisciplinary artist.
ARAB – An interview with author Parham Rahimzadeh
MENDO's Gunifort Uwambaga sat down with author Parham Rahimzadeh to discuss his debut book ARAB and the process he undertook to bring it to creation.
Food, Photography, Flora and Funky Fumes
Books for a green thumb
Summer has officially started, which means we’re moving outside, defying our hay fever, and putting our gloves on. For green inspiration, motivation, relaxation or sensation, we’ve selected four green books…
The best images from books at MENDO
The books at MENDO offer a treasure trove of visually inspiring images. MENDO will dive into the imagery regularly and dig up some of the best images around. Enjoy Visual…
“For me, it’s all about the actual prints”
MENDO chatted with Robbert Jongkind—the genius behind Scenius Gallery, a Dutch online gallery.
In our series Shelf Sessions we climb the shelves of MENDO’s friends. In this episode: Elisa Medde, Managing Editor at Foam Magazine.
How Dior defined the new look of fashion
Inside fashion houses
With the greatest names in fashion all under one roof, you could consider MENDO the house of all houses. In every episode we highlight one of the biggest names in…
Pie Aerts: Towards living a better and fuller life
Tales From the Roads Less Traveled
MENDO is proud to present Tales From The Roads Less Traveled, the first monograph of Dutch photographer Pie Aerts, published with teNeues. The result of years of traveling done by…
Some favorite contributions
For our newest book MOAM and MENDO asked 100 Dutch creatives to show and tell us what fashion in Amsterdam is.
The five best Chanel books of this moment (plus a little bonus).
Visual Inspiration #4: Black and White Portraits
The books at MENDO offer a treasure trove of visually inspiring images. MENDO dives into the imagery regularly to dig up a selection of the best images. In this edition:…
A brief history about (the streets of) Amsterdam
How our home base came to be
The streets of Amsterdam are full of history, that even hardcore Amsterdammers might not know about. Let us tell you a small tale about the past of our beloved home…