Acclaimed Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen collaborates with legendary book designer Irma Boom to offer a fresh and radical vision of the Palace of Versailles. A storied site of history, opulence, and political power, France’s Palace of Versailles has long captured the imagination of both the public and many acclaimed photographers. In 2018, Viviane Sassen was invited by Versailles to make a series of photographs throughout its vast grounds. For six months, she was given free rein, often after official hours, when the buildings were empty, to wander and photograph the palace’s extravagant gardens, gilded baroque interiors, and even Marie Antoinette’s private correspondence. Venus & Mercury is Versailles as you’ve never seen the storied locale before. Drawn to the bodies represented in the palace’s many marble statues, Sassen created hybrid forms that play with notions of sexuality and gender and call to mind traditions of Surrealist art and the work of figures such as Hans Bellmer. The book, featuring more than one hundred images, brims with Sassen’s surprising, pigment-splashed photomontages that play with vivid color and abstracted forms—and a group of women, born and raised in the town beyond the palace walls, appears throughout the book, modern-day protagonists photographed within grand palatial chambers. A series of poems by Marjolijn van Heemstra, commissioned by Sassen, allude to histories of intrigue in court society. Conceived and designed by iconic bookmaker Irma Boom, Venus & Mercury is a unique art object with a double-gatefold cover, packaged in a custom-made box, each individually painted by Sassen. Printed in a limited edition of 1,000 copies
Format: Paperback / softback
Number of pages: 172
Number of images: 104
Publication date: 2022-01-25
Measurements: 9.5 x 11.75 x 11.75 inches
Photographs by Viviane Sassen. Text by Marjolijn van Heemstra and Jerry Stafford. By Irma Boom.
Viviane Sassen (born in Amsterdam, 1972) studied fashion design and photography at the Utrecht School of the Arts and Ateliers Arnhem, the Netherlands. A retrospective of seventeen years of her fashion work, In and Out of Fashion, opened at Huis Marseille, Museum for Photography, Amsterdam, in 2012, traveling extensively thereafter. Sassen was included in the main exhibition of the 55th Venice Biennale, The Encyclopedic Palace, in 2013. She was awarded the Dutch art prize Prix de Rome in 2007, and an International Center of Photography Infinity Award in 2011. In 2015, Sassen won the German Photography Academy’s David Octavius Hill Medal and was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for her exhibition Umbra. She has also received numerous awards for her many publications.
Marjolijn van Heemstra is a Dutch poet, novelist, and playwright, who holds a master’s degree in religion. Her first poetry collection, If Moses Had Been More Persistent (2009), won the Jo Peters Poetry Prize. She debuted as a novelist with The Last of the Aedemas (2012). Her latest novel, In Search of a Name (2020), was nominated for multiple national prizes and has been translated into nine languages. She currently writes for the Correspondent, Harper’s Bazaar, and several newspapers.
Jerry Stafford is an author and creative director. His work has appeared in Aperture, Vogue Italia, L’Uomo Vogue, Numéro, AnOther Magazine, the New York Times, and W Magazine, among other publications.
Irma Boom is a bookmaker based in Amsterdam. She has created over three hundred books. Her experimental approach often challenges the conventions of traditional books in both physical design and printed content. Since 1992, Boom has been senior critic at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, and she gives lectures and workshops worldwide. She has received many awards for her book designs and, in 2001, was the youngest person ever to receive the Gutenberg Prize. Boom’s books are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Vatican Library; and Centre Pompidou, Paris, among other institutions. The Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam collect her complete oeuvre. In 2014, Boom received the Johannes Vermeer Award, the Dutch state prize for the arts. In 2019, she received an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art, London.