Coffee Table Curator: Mugler, Mud, and Magick

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 May, when you’re tired of talking to your houseplants and need a good book to confide in instead. 


St. Tropez Soleil, Assouline, $95

Each page of St. Tropez Soleil is a slice of Tarte Tropezienne. Star-studded like sugar-crusted brioche, the book’s filling is confected of skimpy bikinis and a Bohemian charm that will have you booking the first flight to Nice post-quarantine. A hop and a skip south of the Croisette, the little fishing village with a big name has been the playground for fun in the sun since the 1950s. The Riviera set has included everyone from Mick and Bianca Jagger, Karl Lagerfeld, and Naomi Campbell, and Assouline’s creamsicle-colored edition goes down like a refreshing glass of champagne over ice—Brigitte Bardot’s signature seaside drink. 


Manfred Thierry Mugler, Photographer, Abrams, $125

Last summer, Manfred Thierry Mugler bared his mind, body, and soul for Steven Klein. This month, the legendary fashion designer lets it all hang out again—this time for a newly minted monograph that rivals his gargantuan biceps in size. Featuring iconic and unseen photographs captured by Mugler himself, the tome reads like a travel journal across a universe that mediates between Star Wars and Space Jam. On one page, backdrops are straight out of Tatooine; the next, a candy-coated cartoon fantasy fit for Lola Bunny. On either end of the spectrum, the fashion is cosmically genius and fit for a galaxy far, far away. 


Oscar Wilde’s Italian Dream 1875-1900, Damiani, $27

These days, a glimmer of summer is as sought after as a stimulus check. Thankfully, Oscar Wilde’s Italian Dream 1875-1900 satiates the appetite for a beach holiday like a sip of an Aperol Spritz on the Amalfi Coast. With an air of romance, author Renato Miracco captures Oscar Wilde’s grand tour of Italy following his criminal exile from England. The infamous writer sought solace with his sexuality abroad and found a certain tranquility in the country—a freedom and relaxation best exemplified in the sultry male nudes photographed by Wilhelm von Gloeden inside.  


People of the Mud, Loose Joints, $60

A former dance student at Juilliard, photographer Luis Alberto Rodriguez captures the rhythm and flow of the Irish working class in People of the Mud. In the body of work, the Berlin-based image-maker delivers an arresting portrayal of physical labor. Rodriguez’s photographs unfurl like a gorgeous recital of expression, at once painful and poignant. The most astonishing images: a series of hurling players stacked like pancakes, melding together to create stunning masses of muscle that resemble Rodin sculptures. 


Pop Magick: A Simple Guide to Bending Your Reality, Permuted Press, $15

Every so often a new face emerges as the ambassador to witchcraft. We’ve had a sprightly Samantha Stephens, the Sanderson Sisters, Sabrina, and Jessica Lange as Fiona Goode in American Horror Story: Coven. Well, surprise, bitch: Alex Kazemi just may be the next supreme. While nothing is more magical than Meryl Streep working a martini shaker, Kazemi’s new-age philosophy on the occult comes in a close second. Pop Magick is a modern-day handbook that skills readers on how to break societal chains and bend reality in their favor by using natural forces. Now someone conjure me up a martini.