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Seeing Red


Fundamental to the human condition and the body architecture, the colour represents life in its most exaggerated form

Seeing Red


Fundamental to the human condition and the body architecture, the colour represents life in its most exaggerated form

Culture > Books


 

Seeing Red

November 7, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

Image above: Kuggen, Wingårdh Arkitektkontor, Gothenburg, Sweden, 2011

Red is remarkable. It embodies and encapsulates so many of our states, both positive and negative. Power, wealth, passion, love, jealousy, envy, danger, death – from our blood to our love, from our hearts to our late reminder bills, from our halting at traffic lights to Mars, and to the little red button that could detonate the planet to smithereens. More than a colour, it’s a feeling, an impulse, a psychology, a state of heightened kinetic living and dying in the same breath. Red is humanity at its deepest and most exaggerated form. 

And it’s the supreme storyteller. From the ancient paintings at the Lascaux caves in France to the Egyptians and the Phoenicians, a love of the colour developed. As did business; the trade in red pigments flourished for use in dyes, make-up and other materials. The Romans were among the first to adorn their villas and tombs with red to symbolise status. 

Red takes on different psychologies in different places: luck and happiness in China, good fortune in Iran and mourning in South Africa. Red is the most common colour across the world’s 192 independent national flags. Art has benefitted from it, too, and it’s reckoned to place value on all works sold at auction – for one, a Piet Mondrian devoid of the colour sells for 50 per cent less than with it.

Architects have also indulged in red, from Frank Lloyd Wright’s adoption of it as his signature colour to Eero Saarinen’s use of it in the modernist TWA terminal at JFK Airport in New York. 

“Red is fundamental to the human condition,” writes art historian Stella Paul in her introduction to Phaidon’s new tome Red: Architecture in Monochrome. And a remarkable body of architecture, it also transpires.

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Red: Architecture in Monochrome

Published by Phaidon

(phaidon.com)

Images: Tord-Rikard Söderström (pp.84-85); © 2018 Phaidon Press Ltd

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Forging a Canon


Blacksmith Books is a small outfit with a big agenda – to educate the English-speaking world about Hong Kong through memoirs, fiction and studies of its social make-up. Publisher Pete Spurrier opens up and turns the page

Forging a Canon


Blacksmith Books is a small outfit with a big agenda – to educate the English-speaking world about Hong Kong through memoirs, fiction and studies of its social make-up. Publisher Pete Spurrier opens up and turns the page

Culture > Books


 

Forging a Canon

October 24, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

So what got you started with Blacksmith Books?

  Destination Shanghai

Destination Shanghai

I used to publish a free monthly magazine called Town Crier, which taught me the ropes. But then SARS hit and we went bust. Some of the contributors had ideas for books, so I put three together to keep busy. To my surprise, they all sold really well. I’m still doing it 18 years later. 

What’s your marketing strategy? 

I stick to local publishing. Most of our books are on Hong Kong or Chinese culture, so that’s got to come across in the cover design. A lot of my consumers are women buying gifts for family and friends, or to send to people overseas to say, “This is Hong Kong; this is where we live now.” They’ve got to look as good as the imported books on the shelves, but stand out as a book on Hong Kong. A major part of bookselling is catching the eyes of readers. If it’s a book about people, put the person on the cover, put eyes on the cover. 

And how do you see Hong Kong’s English-language book trade when compared to other cities in the region? 

Well, I know in Bangkok there’s more of a rotating population, so English publishing is very strong there. They can sell the same books to different flight-loads of tourists, lots of fiction – spy novels and locally written detective stuff that’s perfect for a beach read. Most of it isn’t to educate people about Thailand, though – you won’t find many books in English about the lives of Thais. In Hong Kong, there’s more of a settled population and the books I publish tend to explain Hong Kong culture, either directly in showing how people live or via memoirs. They give insights into why people behave the way they do here. 

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 Blacksmith Books’ Pete Spurrier at the Hong Kong Book Fair

Blacksmith Books’ Pete Spurrier at the Hong Kong Book Fair

What kind of books do you generalllook for? 

Authentic local life stories in English. So many people have these interesting and sometimes terrible pasts, but the language barrier means they’re not accessible to the world. Two of our bestsellers are by local authors: Diamond Hill by Feng Chi-shun, a retired doctor, and Hong Kong State of Mind by Jason Y Ng, a lawyer. They provide insights you can’t get from Western residents. And they sell so well, so I would like more of them! But they’re hard to find because most local Chinese authors write in Chinese, naturally.

Have you ever thought about translating any suitable Chinese manuscripts into English? 

It’s always at the back of my mind and I’ve researched best-selling Chinese books. But I haven’t done it yet because I’m flooded with manuscripts coming in unbidden and I keep finding my next project from those. I haven’t had to find works in Chinese and translate them, because these other books in English occupy all my attention.

How do you choose which manuscripts you do end up publishing?

I read the first five pages and that tells you whether they have a good subject, can write and can pace a story. The manuscripts I get are from all around the world and, to be honest, most aren’t publishable or relevant – I’ve no idea why they send them to me! After a couple of years, I learned the key is to choose a niche and then make it your own, so you become the go-to publisher for certain genres or subjects. I’ve had a few forays out of my specialist area – Mongolia, Vietnam or Thailand – but not beyond. I can’t convince bookshops to sell unrelated manuscripts.

Are there any books you’d like to see get written so you can publish them? 

I think [Hong Kong cartoonist] Bill Yim’s got a fantastical life story and I wish he would write it. I will encourage him to do so! I know if he did, I could sell that. 

Would you go so far as to set it up? 

That goes into the realm of ghost-writing, which adds a layer of added costs. Publishing is hard enough anyway and I tend to try and avoid that sort of thing. I have employed ghost writers a couple of times in the past. I did an autobiography of Alain Robert, the French “Spider-Man”. He’s a very entertaining guy with a very unique lifestyle. He said he wanted to do an autobiography, so I employed a ghost writer to work with. It takes it into riskier financial territory, but I agree we should encourage these things to be written.

Images: provided to China Daily

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Fantastaco


Phaidon’s most popular cookbook ever gets a re-release

Fantastaco


Phaidon’s most popular cookbook ever gets a re-release

Culture > Books


 

Fantastaco

October 24, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

Image above: Pico de gallo with jicama and pineapple

Mexico: The Cookbook is the definitive bible of home cooking from Mexico. With a culinary history dating back 9,000 years, Mexican food draws influences from Aztec and Mayan Indians, and is renowned for its use of fresh, aromatic ingredients, colourful presentations and bold food combinations.

The book features more than 650 authentic recipes that can be easily recreated at home. From tamales, fajitas, tacos and molés to cactus salad, blue crab soup and melonseed juice, the recipes are a celebration of the fresh flavours and ingredients from a country whose cuisine is revered around the world. 

Organised by food type and style (street food, starters, drinks, fish and seafood, meat and poultry, vegetables, pulses and rice, and dessert), Mexico: The Cookbook also includes an extensive introduction to Mexican culinary history, ingredients and techniques, while a Chef Menu section proffers inspirational recipes and menus by some of the world’s most prominent Mexican chefs.

Celebrities are loving it, too. Actress Eva Longoria proclaims: “All my life, I have wanted to travel through Mexico to learn authentic recipes from each region – and now I don’t have to!” And indeed, so say all of us.

  Bay scallop ceviche

Bay scallop ceviche

 Cassava dumplings with black beans

Cassava dumplings with black beans

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Mexico: The Cookbook

Margarita Carrillo Arronte, £29.95/€39.95, Phaidon, www.phaidon.com

Images: Photography by Fiamma Piacentini

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Creature Comforts


Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein is 200 years old in 2018, yet it feels more topical than ever. Read(or re-read) the story you thought you knew

Creature Comforts


Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein is 200 years old in 2018, yet it feels more topical than ever. Read(or re-read) the story you thought you knew

Culture > Books


 

Creature Comforts 

October 10, 2018 / by James Oliver

Image above: Victor Frankenstein becomes disgusted at his creation; illustration taken from the frontispiece of the 1831 edition, steel engraving to the revised edition of Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley, published by Colburn and Bentley, London, 1831

In a 21st-century age where immortality has now become the mantra of every Silicon Valley tech zillionaire as they seek to “cure” death – Google founder Bill Maris said he wants “to live long enough not to die” and famed angel investor Peter Thiel has promoted the notion of transhumanism – the ability to evolve beyond the body’s limitations, aided and abetted by technological additions, is the gain line for Gen-Z humanity and beyond.

Frankenstein, the story of one man’s obsession with the creation of life and his subsequent abandonment of his creation, remains a salient study of creativity and destruction. But it’s also a cautionary tale and a reminder of the passage of time, even though today’s world, now 200 years since the book’s initial publication, has rendered much of author Mary Shelley’s science fiction almost realisable. 

Shelley penned the remarkable novel Frankenstein – or The Modern Prometheus, as it was also titled – about a science student (Victor Frankenstein) and the monster he creates. This idea emerged while the 18-year-old Shelley, her flamboyant husband (the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley) and her stepsister Claire Clairmont stayed on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816 as the holidaying neighbours of the legendary poet Lord Byron, who had impregnated Clairmont during a recent affair. 

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  Boris Karloff, the actor who immortalised the character of Frankenstein’s monster, from  The Bride of Frankenstein  (1935)

Boris Karloff, the actor who immortalised the character of Frankenstein’s monster, from The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Incessant rain confined them indoors and, at Byron’s suggestion, they each tried their hand at creating a ghost story. Mary’s attempt was originally just a short story, but so taken was Percy by his wife’s tale that he convinced her to novelise it, which he edited. Her original Frankenstein manuscript, accompanied throughout by Percy’s corrections, revisions and additions, is still in existence and held at Oxford’s Bodleian Library in England. 

To those whose familiarity with Frankenstein comes via sensational, one-dimensional representations in film and TV, the novel will be a huge surprise. Careful not to weigh the story in favour of the creator or the creature, Mary Shelley conjured a sense of moral suspension in which conventional questions – who’s the hero and who’s the villain – become blurred. The creature, whose voice takes up a considerable part the novel, as well as a third narrator, Walton, allow us to see a perspective denied us by Victor Frankenstein’s version of events, which the scientist never acknowledges: that he was at fault because he didn’t provide his creation with love or an education. 

In this way, Mary Shelley created something intensely special. Not once in the more-than-200-page work does she refer to the creature as a “monster”; that moniker has come from the media’s subsequent portrayals of the subject. Rather, in the author’s hands, the creature’s suffering is recounted in palpable, poignant detail and she asks the reader to sympathise with him. 

Which we do. What lends Frankenstein such poignancy is that it’s more than just a tale of creator and created, but about what happens after. What are the consequences of such invention, what are Victor’s responsibilities, and what impact and effect do those actions have on the lives of others? And most important of all, what happens to the creature?

The novel, is in some respects, closely linked to Mary Shelley’s own life. Her own birth caused the death of her mother, she lost three children with her husband and he subsequently drowned, forcing her to live as the single mother of their only remaining child. Mary Shelley often referred to the novel as her “offspring” and in her hands, Victor Frankenstein’s creation becomes an abandoned child, much like herself, gone wrong because of the ill treatment of its creator. 

Frankenstein is feted for being the first science-fiction novel and is an early tale of psychological horror. It also feels pressing today; science and technology have advanced our human potential so greatly that we’re already living in the world of Franken-fish and other such modifications of nature. What was once just a story about a single “mad scientist” has now become mankind’s wake-up call.

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Tokyo Love Story


Convenience Store Woman is a Japanese literary sensation about an unconventional woman who finds contentment in an unexpected place

Tokyo Love Story


Convenience Store Woman is a Japanese literary sensation about an unconventional woman who finds contentment in an unexpected place

Culture > Books


 

Tokyo Love Story

September 12, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata just might be the most surprising and unexpected love story you’ll ever read. Intriguingly, there’s no relationship in the novel between two characters in any conventional sense of a loving narrative; there are no marriages or divorces; there’s no mother/father or son/daughter tales of growth and parental/child love; and nobody dies. 

Keiko Furukura has never really fit in. At school and university, people find her odd due to her penchant for bizarre actions – at the former, she bashes a boy over the head with a shovel to stop him from fighting. At one point, she even asks her mother if she can cook a dead budgie she has found in the park. Her family, understandably, worries she’ll never be normal.

To appease them, 18-year-old Keiko takes a job at a convenience store, Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart. Here, she finds peace and purpose in the daily tasks of shelf restocking, product promotions and routine interactions with customers and staff. She comes to understand that she’s happiest in the mundane role at which she excels, with its morning chorus of Irasshaimase!, meaning “Welcome!” 

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Murata writes: “When I can’t sleep, I think about the transparent glass box that is still stirring with life, even in the darkness of the night. That pristine aquarium is still operating like clockwork… When morning comes, once again I’m a convenience store worker, a cog in society. This is the only way I can be a normal person.” Keiko’s response is sensitive to the store’s aura, as she becomes a “convenience store animal” who can “hear the store’s voice telling me what it wanted, how it wanted to be.”

Therein lies the problem. Keiko is now 35 and, in the constraints of her social circle, it just won’t do for an unmarried, childless woman to spend her life stacking shelves and reordering green tea, a job ordinarily performed by part-time students. Friends and family pressure her to seek therapy, find a new job or, best of all, a husband. 

At which point in lollops the character Shiraha, an unusually lanky, lazy and opinionated sort who thinks humanity hasn’t evolved from the Stone Age and whose truculence soon gets him sacked, only for Keiko to take pity on him. 

In the standard narrative, our two protagonists would overcome their idiosyncracies or be drawn to them, and fall in love. But that has nothing to do with this story. With echoes of Kaori Ekuni’s Twinkle Twinkle, Keiko tells the misfit Shiraha he can move in with her, where she will provide and keep him “hidden from society”. In return, her family and friends will consider her normal for having a man in the house. “If a man and a woman are alone in an apartment together,” she tells him, “people’s imaginations run wild and they’re satisfied, regardless of the reality.” Shiraha concurs, telling Keiko that on a functional level, “Everyone will assume you’re a sexually active, respectable human being. That’s the image of you that pleases them most. Isn’t it wonderful?” 

A bestseller in Japan and the winner of the prestigious Akutagawa Prize, Convenience Store Woman, Murata’s eighth novel in Japanese, marks her English-language debut and she’s been hailed as the most exciting voice of her generation. Remarkably, the author is also a convenience store worker and wrote her novella from 2am until 8am each night, after which she would go to work at the convenience store, which she has credited as being an antidote to her former shyness. 

Blindingly good and strangely comforting from start to finish, the novella is clever, terse, quirky, poignant, poetic and funny, Keiko’s world of total contentment – with nary a tweet, Instagram or social media platform in sight – and its luminous linearity stays with you long after reading it. And zen some. 

Keiko couldn’t be any more unconventional when it comes to the expectations of the contemporary Japanese female. Convenience Store Woman is a mini-masterpiece of intimacy, a revelation at hand. Read and relish the love story of the century – a compelling marriage of convenience.

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Top Table


A scion of the Missoni clan spills the beans on some well-guarded family recipes

Top Table


A scion of the Missoni clan spills the beans on some well-guarded family recipes

Culture > Books


 

Top Table

July 18, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

The famed Italian fashion family of Missoni lives life in colour. Just as their style is recognised and admired throughout the world – think the brand’s iconic zigzags – that same streak of easy glamour inspires the family’s entertaining techniques. Francesco Maccapani Missoni, the son of creative director Angela Missoni, has collected numerous family recipes and assembled them in The Missoni Family Cookbook, which arrives just in time for summer. Whether you’re hankering for gnocchi verdi, zucchine alla parmigiana or pesce bollito con maionese, these delicious, well-guarded recipes allow epicureans to indulge in authentic Italian fare and join the Missonis a tavola.

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The Missoni Family Cookbook

Available at Assouline stores or
from
assouline.com

Images: © 2018 Assouline

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A New Light


Discover the unseen early work of acclaimed French photographer Guy Bourdin

A New Light


Discover the unseen early work of acclaimed French photographer Guy Bourdin

Culture > Books


 

A New Light

July 4, 2018 / by Zhang Yen

  © The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2017

© The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2017

Though he’s most celebrated for his colour images shot for French Vogue and brands including Charles Jourdan, Issey Miyake, Chanel, Versace, Emanuel Ungaro and more, self-taught French photographer Guy Bourdin (1928–1991) launched his career in black-and-white in the early 1950s. Until quite recently, however, much of that period had gone unknown and unseen. 

Untouched, published by Steidl and digital artist Pascal Dangin, explores this body of work and gives insight into the early development of Bourdin’s photographic eye. Carefully constructed images that were initially conceived as an exhibition series reveal his artistic motivation, years before he began working on assignments for top titles including Vogue and Photo Femina, and convey striking graphic layouts and narrative cinematic portraiture. 

The later and more familiar periods of Bourdin’s work have been shown in numerous museums and galleries, notably the Tate Modern and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the National Museum of China in Beijing and the Getty in Los Angeles. But these images emerged from an unexpected treasure chest. A yellow Kodak box was discovered, within which were a series of brown paper envelopes that each contained a negative with a corresponding contact print taped to the outside, often with cropping guides. 

  © The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2017

© The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2017

Untouched for 50 years, the images are intimate, personal and authentic reflections of Bourdin’s broader visual interests prior to his commercial career as a fashion photographer. There are poetic portraits of the city of Paris, in which Bourdin plays with the viewer’s gaze like the surrealists and the artists of the subjective photography school who so inspired him. His experimentation appears to be endless, as though his future artistic signature was as yet unformed or still nascent. 

Explains Philippe Garner, the long-time photography auctioneer and author of the book’s essay Unique Perspectives: “Though Guy Bourdin is widely acknowledged as an artist of exceptional inspiration, he has remained in many ways an enigma. His individual images can be compelling, disquieting, haunting; cumulatively, they constitute a strange, off-kilter, yet totally credible parallel universe – our recognisable world dramatically reconfigured through the powerful imagination of this artist. Untouched unveils a compelling narrative regarding his formative years. Painstakingly salvaged and dusted down, sorted and examined as the precious archaeological fragments that they are, these photographs illuminate the crucial first years of Bourdin’s image-making.” 

Dangin, the creative director of Untouched, assesses Bourdin thus: “My many years of working with some of the greatest photographers gave me the points of reference and a certain critical distance to appreciate Bourdin’s unique and avant-garde approach – his constant eye for detail, the visual metaphors that he managed to create, and the clues that he incorporated across his work to hold our attention and to propose an alternative way of engaging with a fashion image.”

  © The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2017

© The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2017

 

Guy Bourdin: Untouched
Published by Steidl
(steidl.de)

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Saving the World


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No – it’s the meteoric rise of comic book powerhouse DC Comics

Saving the World


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No – it’s the meteoric rise of comic book powerhouse DC Comics

Culture > Books


 

Saving the World

May 26, 2017

  75 Years of DC Comics. The Art of Modern Mythmaking  Paul Levitz Hardcover, 25 x 34.2 cm (9.8 x 13.5 in.), 720 pages Published by Taschen (  taschen.com  )

75 Years of DC Comics. The Art of Modern Mythmaking
Paul Levitz
Hardcover, 25 x 34.2 cm (9.8 x 13.5 in.), 720 pages
Published by Taschen
(taschen.com)

For countless comic-book fans around the world, DC Comics remains one of the format’s holy names alongside Marvel. Established in 1934 as National Allied Publications, in February 1935 founder Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson debuted New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine – a tabloid-sized comic book of all-new material in an era when the majority of comics were castoffs from the newspaper strips. In the latter half of the 1930s, the name (and the size) evolved, creating the famed titles Adventure Comics, Detective Comics and Action Comics. DC was headquartered in Manhattan for more than 80 years, though in 2015 it upped stakes and relocated to Burbank, California.

In 1935, the American publisher has long been associated with its two most popular – and oldest – characters: Superman and Batman. However, DC has created numerous other famed superheroes and superheroines with whom you may be familiar, including Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. These names have either already been brought to the big screen, or are in the process of making their movie debuts in the next year or two. 

As its long-time fans have grown up and new fans have joined the fray, DC’s top two world-savers have been supported by growing audiences around the world for decades. According to Box Office Mojo, Superman’s first major film in 1978 brought in more than US$300 million at the global box office, while the 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ranked the seventh highest-grossing film last year, marking a new record for the Superman franchise with a take of more than US$873 million worldwide. As for Batman, 2008’s The Dark Knight still leads the pack at more than US$1 billion globally.

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Celebrating DC’s 75th anniversary in 2010, art-book publisher Taschen released Paul Levitz’s stunning oversized volume 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Long out of print, what’s claimed to be the “single most comprehensive book on DC Comics” – and indeed, Levitz worked in a variety of roles at DC for 38 years – has received the re-edition treatment. 

This time around, the rich content of the massive original, which won the Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Comics-Related Book of the Year, is presented in a more compact hardcover form. Generously measuring 25cm by 34.2cm, it features 720 pages with more than 2,000 original full-colour images. Multilingual translations in German, French or Spanish will also be available. This is one tome you’ll want on your shelf for life. 

Images: Painting by HJ Ward/courtesy Taschen (Superman); © 2017 DC Comics, all rights reserved (Batman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern); Taschen

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Set in Stone: 100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings


Concrete and the finest buildings created from it

Set in Stone: 100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings


Concrete and the finest buildings created from it

Culture > Books



Set in Stone

July 10, 2015

Concrete was first used in ancient Egypt, the Romans mastered its use, and with their fall its secrets were lost until the early-19th century when methods for making the “artificial stone” were rediscovered in Britain.

It has its detractors and proponents, yet when properly handled this “liquid stone” is one of the noblest of materials in contemporary architecture. Its many forms make it malleable, durable, and suitable for some of engineering’s most prodigious feats.

This two-volume edition highlights some of the finest concrete architecture of recent years. Including examples by starchitects such as Zaha Hadid, Herzog & de Meuron and Steven Holl, alongside Russian newcomers Speech, respected up-and-coming international architects such as Rudy Ricciotti from France, and artists such as James Turrell, who turned the famous concrete spiral of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim in New York into the setting for one of his most remarkable pieces.

100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings
Philip Jodidio
Hardcover, 2 vols. in slipcase, 24.0 x 30.5 cm, 730 pages
Published by Taschen
(taschen.com)