Coffee table arty books are not all genteel. These books play with disturbing images … mannequins in stunning ballgowns with mad hair and no faces, “murdered” models in full 80s regalia, punk gentlemen with doll leg headdresses.
Anglomania is a stunner. It presents historical costumes in conjunction with 20th and 21st century fashion – staged in vignettes set in period rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These conjunctions are weirdly hypnotic, proving the maxim that there is no beauty that has not some strangeness in the proportion. 18th century silken gowns mix with Philip Treacy hats and Vivienne Westwood bedecked dandies. The mannequins who wear the costumes are a bit scary, like the clockwork characters in the Doctor Who episode The Girl in the Fireplace.
The book on Guy Bourdin illustrates his hugely influential photography, blurring commercial fashion, art, and surrealism. I went to an exhibition of his work in Melbourne in 2004 and was gobsmacked by the sexy glossiness and mystery of Bourdin’s photos.
True Romance: Allegorien der Liebe … (allegories of love from the Renaissance to the present) is an intriguing book. It meshes together text, reproductions of classic paintings, and more modern works, all connected by the theme of love. It is nice to dip into a book and see Tracey Emin and Nan Goldin aside Gustav Klimt and Giorgione. One for lovers as well as art lovers.