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“100 Years of Creativity: A Century of Bookmaking at Phaidon” Celebrates the Art of The Coffee Table Book

In 1923, Dr. Béla Horovitz, Frederick ‘Fritz’ Ungar, and Ludwig Goldscheider, bonded by their love of the classics, decided to found a publishing company that championed its continued influence on 20th-century cultural pursuits. The name? Phaidon—a nod to Phaedo, a Greek philosopher and pupil of Socrates.

100 years later, the humble Viennese house has become the utmost chronicler of the artistic and fashion zeitgeist: When Rihanna had the idea to create a visual autobiography, she worked with Phaidon. When Steven Meisel and Linda Evangelista wanted to chronicle their model-as-muse relationship, Phaidon published it. (“When working with Phaidon on our first book together, Steven and I sought to honor the many images that have resulted from the years of friendship and working together,” Evangelista tells Vogue. “The joy that went into making these pictures, and our celebration of fashion and our love for it is undeniable.”) And when Thom Browne chose to commemorate his own brand’s 20th anniversary, he did so with—you guessed it—Phaidon. “My first ever monograph with Phaidon, is made even more special due to it being published during Phaidon’s centennial year,” Brown says.

Phaidon now has global headquarters in London and New York, as well as offices in Paris and Berlin. Their books are published in over 100 countries and in English, Chinese, French, Spanish, Japanese, and German—with continued plans of expansion. 

But how, exactly, did Phaidon become such a behemoth? That’s the very question examined–and answered—at a new exhibit at Christie’s Rockefeller Center, “100 Years of Creativity: A Century of Bookmaking at Phaidon.” Revisiting over 150 of their most notable titles, the exhibit not only offers a feast for the eyes by showcasing the many dynamic photographs published within its many pages, but also provides fascinating insight into the evolution of the visual publishing process itself: in the 1930s, for example, Phaidon published their first large-format book on Van Gogh, arguably crafting the first prototype of what is now colloquially known as the “coffee table book.”

An image from Thom Browne, the designer’s upcoming monograph with Phaidon. 



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