Coffee Table Curator: Peter Berlin, Brooke Shields’s Calvins, and Shirtless Olympians

Published January 20, 2020

Coffee Table Curator is a monthly series showing—no, telling—you which art and culture books to add to your living room repertoire; your remote control and beer-stained coasters will look chic by association. Here’s what we have to recommend for the month of January, for when the temperatures drop (and rise) and there’s really not much else to do.

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Peter Berlin: Icon, Artist, Photosexual, Damiani, $50

These days, it’s hard to imagine a publication hotter than the Articles of Impeachment, and yet Peter Berlin’s long-awaited monograph delivers a worthy competitor. Flipping through Icon, Artist, Photosexual is like toggling the controller of a Playstation 2 with a fistful of lube. Berlin is a Sims-esque character that crash-landed in Area 51. The bulges are out of this world, the fashion extraterrestrial, and the phallic imagery a rocket ship that blasts off through Berlin’s body and body of work. 

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Avedon Advertising, Abrams, $125

First photographed for Interview in 1974, a then eight-year-old Brooke Shields would have no idea the controversy she would cause at age 15 with the debut of her Calvin Klein denim campaign. The infamous ad is on the cover of Avedon Advertising, a book chronicling the iconic commercial work of the late photographer Richard Avedon. The Klein ads may be Avedon’s most well-known print job, but they’re only the tip of his iceberg, with hundreds of ads living between Brooke’s Calvins and the book’s last page.

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Instamatics, Twin Palms, $85

If Andy Warhol was Interview’s class president, former contributor Antonio Lopez was like the captain of the football team moonlighting as the yearbook editor. Friend to all, foe to none, Instamatics is a treasure trove of cheery nostalgia that offers a glimmer of Lopez’ life as if it took place in the most glamorous high school on earth. There’s a young Karl Lagerfeld chowing down on hamburgers, a sprightly Jerry Hall (pre-Murdoch), and Grace Jones frolicking in a bubble bath. Where do we enroll? 

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Jean-Michel Frank, Assouline, $250

Though there isn’t a piece of furniture more decadent than the brioche La-Z-Boy imagined by chef Laila Gohar last week, Assouline’s tome on Jean-Michel Frank is equally delicious. The little-known French interior designer has grown a cult following in the past decade and the monograph’s 200 illustrations confirm why. A decade ago, a coffee table by Frank actualized a winning bid of 313,000 euros at the Yves Saint Laurent auction, begging the question: How much brioche can one buy with 313,000 euros? 

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Athletes & Gymnasts, Twin Palms, $150

For those struggling to keep their 2020 fitness resolutions, Athletes & Gymnasts offers not one, but two reminders that (at the time of this column’s publishing) Hot Girl Summer is only 139 days away. Reminiscent of our January/February 1983 Olympic special issue, this two-volume publication by Anderson & Low compiles dozens of photographs of chiseled athletes galore. Ahead of the Summer 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, we’ve crafted our own athletic game of sorts: challenging Olympians to try on 15 articles of clothing in 15 minutes. Standby for Interview’s official submission to the sports category later this year.