What do octogenarian British artist David Hockney, boxer Muhammad Ali and carmaker Ferrari have in common? Very little, except they’re all the subject of glossy books by German publisher Taschen.
One of the world’s leading art book publishers, Taschen has just opened its first store in Asia at Hong Kong’s Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts. As with all Taschen stores, the sleek space is packed with books on everything from art to food to travel to fashion to, as Taschen brands them, “sexy books”.
Many of these books are affordably priced, but Taschen is particularly famous for its limited-edition, sumo-sized books, which are so large that they’re sold with their own table and can cost in the hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong dollars. At the opening of the Hong Kong store, we speak to Marlene Taschen, managing director of the family business, to talk about the brand’s plans for Asia and Taschen’s upcoming book on Ferrari, which will cost HK$250,000.
Why did you choose Hong Kong as the location for your first store in Asia?
We’ve always been very drawn to Hong Kong. We've had a regional office here since 2005, and the addition of a permanent space was a fitting choice for us to continue developing our presence and positioning in the region.
Hong Kong’s international spirit and thriving art scene make it an ideal platform for Taschen, and the store will give us the chance to present the full extent of our program and to engage in a direct dialogue with customers and the local community.
As well as publishing Sumo-sized collectors’ editions, which can cost thousands of US dollars, Taschen also publishes "Basic Art" series and other more affordable books. Why is the mix of mass-market publications and collectors‘ editions important to you?
At Taschen we say that variety is the spice of life. Our programme stands true to this sentiment. Our standard edition titles represent a core part of our business and series such as “Basic Art” aim to democratise art and make it accessible. Our limited-edition program, on the other hand, has allowed us to enter a new segment of the market, as well as opening many doors to new collaborations.
Can you tell me a little bit about any titles you have coming up?
We are coming out with a monumental limited-edition book on Ferrari this summer. Aside from the story it tells and the never-before-seen content, it’s a beautiful piece of design, worthy of the brand it represents. I worked closely on this project from its conception and I am excited to see it come to fruition.
Book shops around the world are struggling, yet Taschen is opening new stores in the most expensive districts of the world‘s biggest cities. Does the state of the publishing industry ever worry you?
Every investment comes with its risks, to be sure, but we hope for positive results. Generally speaking, our global retail network is far more diversified than it was even a decade ago. With a multi-channel structure that includes trade and e-commerce as well as stores, we feel we have a solid foundation on which to build.
Where else in Asia would you like to open stores?
Our current focus is to make our Hong Kong store a success. Where we go from there, only the future will tell.
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