Beach (House) Reads

From Dior to dummies, a look at the season's most interesting art books.

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“Raf Simons”

Photo By Kyle Ericksen

“C.Z. Guest: American Style Icon”

Photo By Kyle Ericksen

“Paris in the 1920s with Kiki de Montparnasse” (Assouline; available now), by art historian and art history professor Xavier Gerard. You can’t go wrong with Kiki de Montparnasse, and Assouline and Gerard certainly haven’t. This is a big, lavishly produced and comprehensive study of the woman who was considered the greatest muse of her day, the mistress of Moise Kisling, who painted a dozen portraits of her; Foujita, who did a series of monochrome nudes of her, and Man Ray. Man Ray created the most famous portrait of her, “Le Violon d’Ingres,” (a photo of her back with superimposed violin f-holes) which appears on the cover of the book, and Ray also did the portrait of her holding an African mask called “Black and White” and put her in a film called “Retour a la raison.” Kiki reviewed the work of Alexander Calder in a magazine for expatriate Americans and sat for him in a short Pathe film. She could sing and dance, but she walked away from a recording contract because she didn’t want to do anything as a profession. “By 1929, [Paris’] principal protagonists, lost among the tourist throngs, looked, according to Kay Boyle, like ‘survivors of another and far gayer company and of a wilder, more adventurous time.”” Long after her Montparnasse had vanished, Kiki died in 1953.

“Raf Simons” (Taschen; available now), curated by Terry Jones. In an interview done for i-D that appears in the book, Simons, the designer known for his streamlined looks who succeeded John Galliano at Dior, says, “I’m aiming to bring more modernity to Dior. The most exciting and fulfilling part for me is when anybody — just anybody — in the street is wearing my clothes.” The book is full of glossy two-page shots of Simons’ designs from various collections for men and women, with a strong emphasis on men’s looks, since Simons started out in men’s wear, launching his own label in 1995. Bomber jackets were an early signature. Ten years later, he became creative director of Jil Sander, and his collections for Dior thus far have been well-received.

“Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits” (Pointed Leaf Press; available now), by Matthew Rolston. If you were wondering what Rolston has been up to recently, here’s your answer, and it’s miles away from his signature Hollywood glamour. The Vent Haven museum in Fort Mitchell, Ky., was created by W.S. Berger, a Cincinnati businessman and amateur ventriloquist who collected hundreds of ventriloquists’ dummies. Some of the dummies that belonged to Edgar Bergen, the most famous ventriloquist of his day, are here, and the others come from a total of 20 countries. Berger created rooms full of playful dummy tableaux. The book — which features essays by Rolston, Terry Fator and others — reminds us that Bergen had a hit radio show on which he interacted with a favorite dummy, Charlie McCarthy. That’s right, a radio show. The dummies that Rolston chose to photograph are startling and even a bit scary in these extreme close-ups.

“C.Z. Guest: American Style Icon” (Rizzoli New York; available now), by Susanna Salk, with an introduction by William Norwich and contributions from Oscar de la Renta, Diane von Furstenberg, Liz Smith, Peter Duchin, Steven Stolman, Paul Wilmot and others. From the cover of the book, which shows her in 1955 at her Palm Beach house, Villa Artemis, with a Great Dane, to the shots of her in the final pages of the book, tending her garden, she epitomizes the classic WASP look and lifestyle. The former Lucy Douglas Cochrane, she married the champion polo player and steel heir Winston Guest in 1947. Their life at their Sutton Place apartment in Manhattan, in the country at Templeton and at their Palm Beach house was effortlessly stylish. So was she. Dressed by Mainbocher, Givenchy and Adolfo, she appeared perennially on the Best Dressed List, and was elected to its Hall of Fame in 1957. But what she was proudest of were her gardens. In 1976, while recuperating from a riding accident, she received so many queries about gardening that it gave her the idea for her first book, “First Garden.” Within two years, she was writing a syndicated gardening column for The New York Post. Meanwhile, with her piquant face, slim figure and understated clothes, she never took a bad picture. And she was also the only one of Truman Capote’s swans who remained his friend after he published portions of his román a clef, “Answered Prayers,” which exposed many a society secret.

“Art & Sole” (Harper Design; available Aug. 20), by Jane Gershon Weitzman. This book shows off the various “fantasy shoes” created by artists for window displays in the stores of her husband, shoe designer Stuart Weitzman. The artists represented include Joanne Bedient, Nina Benley, Firoozeh Boden, Jane Carroll, Anthony Rosiello, Robert Steele and Robert Tabor, and the exaggerated, colorful pieces are made out of everything from corrugated cardboard and watercolor paper to frosting to real flowers to coated steel.

“Rick Owens” (Taschen; available now), curated by Terry Jones. Owens is a California-born designer who designed for the Paris fur house Revillon from 2003 to 2006 and lives and shows his signature collection in the City of Light. “With his long jet-black hair, his look is bodybuilder meets martial arts expert meets Mayan priest,” Jones writes. Owens is known for his loose knits in cotton and cashmere; long, languid skirts, and distressed leather jackets, all in a dark, monochromatic palette. His collections are often labeled “Goth” or “grunge,” but he’s not keen on either label. The book shows shots from his shows, magazine articles and various fashion shoots, all distinctive, even eccentric, looks. Owens puts men in dresses, and he dislikes miniskirts, but likes shorts. “I don’t do miniskirts and I don’t do tight stuff that exaggerates a woman’s femininity,” he tells Jones. “I sometimes feminize men, probably because my materials are soft and there’s a languor to everything I do that it automatically becomes a little androgynous.”


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