Carl Williams is the man behind the counter culture department of Maggs Bros Ltd. If you’re not sure of what or who Maggs is; its an antiquarian booksellers in London’s uppercut area of Mayfair.
Maggs has been selling some of the rarest and most specialised books since 1853. Where the rest of the company sells the likes of first edition Charles Dickens’ and Medieval manuscripts, Carl finds original Velvet Underground posters and rare zines made by the most obscure subcultures. In essence Carl’s job is pretty heavenly, he is largely responsible for saving and recognising culture usually dismissed by institutions for their ‘low culture’ connotations which is only more exciting due to the context of the Maggs Bros. traditional setting.
Unlike the usual bookseller discovering subcultural press, Carl invests in the most mind blowing material culture that you could have only dreamed of knowing existed. So to celebrate his stall at the book fair ROOM&BOOK opening today at London’s ICA, he’s chosen us some of his favourite pieces that he’ll be displaying their this weekend.
FLAGELLATION, ROGER. [Fessées (Spankings)].
A collection of sadistic drawings. Small folio, 38 drawings on full pages; 27 fully worked in coloured pencils, with 11 on versos with some partly erased, all in pencil with a few partly coloured, 14 versos also annotated largely in blue pen in French, bound in on stubs, with a signed ‘frontispiece’ tipped on to a cutaway cream paper window, tissues giards, blanks, in recent quarter blue straight grained moroco, marbled paper boards, gilt titles on spine, 5 raised bands. N.p., n.d., 1950s. £1,250
A rare submissive’s illustrated testimonial to a dominatrix or fellow sexual role player. We do not know who the creator of these outsider style drawings is, though he signs himself as ‘Roger’ . In his sort of prefatory note addressed to ’ ma petite cherie’, he (for he is surely a man) declares that, to paraphrase in English, there is no doubt that the little sketch will invert you to be even more severe and cruel than Catherine de Medici to her pages and exacerbate the inflcitin of a thrilling and refined perversity on the ass of your Page till he has ejaculated in gery spurts from his penis for your satisaction. The declaration is in effect a signed ‘slave contract’ giving the object of his submissions carte blanche to do with him as she will – as long as it is wthin the bounds of his gyneocratic fantasy world.
Much of the remaining work depicts the pathology of Roger‘s psychosexual development and the importnat episodes that fixed his love of being sissied, punished, taught obeisance and humiliated. The second picture depicts what seems to be seminal scene of ’Roger’ being beaten by his mother while another woman looks on sternly, again his buttocks are reddened, this is described on the verso as a “ fessée honteuse” or a shameful spanking. Further pcitures involve other female members of his family such as his grandmother administering punishment in various quotidian domestic settings such as the kitchen table. Another picture depicts a comrade from his college days being spanked by two aunts and another seems to show an ‘inflexible father’ beating Suzanne, a 15 year old. Thus showing how endemic spanking was to Roger’s world. The final plate is the ultimate humiliation, Roger is dressed as a girl, his skirts lifted and he is being spanked by his mother at his grandmother’s request. He describes this scenario as a not infrequent punishment for damaging his trousers.
[BENGLIS (Lynda)]. Artforum.
Original T-shirt. 76 x 68.58 cm., screenprinted in colour, titles in black, airbrushed additions in coloured paints, white cotton Fruit of The Loom shirt, framed and glazed in a custom ‘T’ shaped gilded frame and laid on to green baize, contemporaneously signed and dated by the artist on the lower right. N.p. [New York/Madison?], n.p. [The artist, printed by Bill Weege at The Jones Road Print Shop], n.d., 1974. £10,000
Near fine, unexamined out of frame. Very rare and desirable and especially so signed. We have read notices within the art trade stating that this frame was made by Benglis.
Provenance: Paula Cooper, New York thence to The Collection of Marvin & Florence Gerstin.
An early example of ‘crowdfunding’ or ‘kickstarting’ an art publication, Benglis is said to have produced the shirts to pay for an artistic intervention in cahoots with her gallery and in the form of a doublespread ’ advertisement’ in Artforum, the dominant contemporary art organ of the day. She created a sensation within both the readership and editorial board. semmel et al sum up the intevention in a nutshell:
“In a decade which saw many male artists revealing themselves in this fashion, however, Benglis’s nudity was the least part of the controversy, albeit an essential part of her statement. In true Hustler style, she stood there defiantly, dressed in body grease, shades, a foot-long dildo held at attention, and nothing else. It was powerful, it was vulgar, and it made its point: a penis and defiant stance to match was still the primary formula for success in the New York art world” (p26- – Musing about the Muse inFeminist Studies , Vol. 9, No. 1, 1983).
In an interview with Amy Newman for Challenging Art: Artforum 1962-1974, Benglis recounted the events that led to the dildo portrait. She recalled that senior editor Robert Pincus Witten wanted to do an article on her which led her to formulate the idea of an atwork by her ‘within’ Artforum itself. Benglis had already approached Artforum ‘s publisher Charles Cowles and declared that she wanted to be a ’centrefold’ and “..Charlie smiled and blushed . Then he showed me an Artforum T-shirt and I took the T-shirt and I remember tha I thought I’d like to do a T-shirt too. Before, the inception of the article (p-390).
She began to discuss the centrefold idea with editor in chief John Coplans and presented him with three images, one of which was “.something really strong” (op. cit.) with the rationale that, after feedback from a visitor to her gallery, she didn‘t want to look like a victim. Coplans noted that she was insistent that her dildo image should appear in Pincus Witten’s article after Artforumpublished Robert Morris’s poster of him as a “..modern he-man..” (p-391 ibid). Her request was denied and Coplans suggested an ad “..and her gallery agrees..” (op. cit.) She refused to have her illustrations in the article itself and even for the cover image and opted instead for the advert with the stronger image she wanted in the right context. Consequently, the editors, according to Benglis, “..doubled the price or they tripled the price..” (p-392 ibid) from $1500. Coplans said that Cowles was worried what his mother would think and then the printer refused to run it but he appealed to his sentiments as a fellow old soldier and he ran his presses (p-393-393 ibid).
The editors wrote a strident letter of complaint, Coplans didn’t publish it, and another ironic one from Peter Plagens, thus:
“Imagine my perplexity when my nine-year-old son, who’d met this ”artist“ only weeks before here in our home, asked me if that dildo was really made of some Japanese plastic which would further depress our domestic styren industry” (note 127, p-525, ibid).
The ad in effect, provoked an editorial crisis with resignations and a public letter to the New York Tmes and thereafter dividedArtforum factionally and did indeed upset Cowles’ mother.
Four decades later, Benglis told Louisa Buck in an interview entitled Lynda Benglis: going with the flow for The Art Newspaper, issue 266, 2015 “I wish I still had that body now!” and that she “…knew it was a provocation. I knew it would be big, in my gut I knew that, but I had to do it and I knew it would be challenging. It was important for me to present the sexuality of both a man and a woman together symbolically”.
[BASQUIAT (Jean-Michel)]. Times Square Show opening June 1, 1980. Art Films Store Some Fashion, Politics And More all [?] June 41st & 7th Ave
Original flyer. 21.5 x 27.9 cm., one b&w photograph, handblocked titles, offset lithography, on thin white paper. N.p. [New York], n.p. [Collaborative Projects Incorporated / Fashion Moda], n.d., 1980. £675
Crisp, clean copy, slight browning. Rare in both commerce and instittions with one copy only on OCLC.
The Met’s note on OCLC, for a much larger poster, states that “..among the events were a film show by Jim Jarmish [sic] and a slide show by Nan Goldin” The Met also has a mimeographed programme for the event and the OCLC entry for it notes that the roster included artists “.. from the East Village and graffitti artists such as: John Ahearn, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gregory Lehman, Tom Otterness, Kiki Smith, and many others”. The Show was a very early appearance by Basquiat, the trade in graffiti art tells us that the work merited a one line mention in the art press. The photo depicts a busty Anita Ekberg in a dress with a plunging neckline carrying a roast turkey on a tray.
The recently acquired archive of Berlin Bromley spanning 1978 to the present day, includes notebooks, correspondence and printed matter and notably four early notebooks from his days with Siouxise et al. In process of cataloguing.
The Vulture Book Volumes i-iv.
“Berlin Bromley is a real ‘punk’;” – Jon Savage (on the telephone to this writer).
Just arrived in the shop is the archive of a youth, an original punk, it includes four shop bought notebooks or perhaps Warholian capsule diaries, journals or commonplace books from 1978, created by the teenage Bertie Marshall in the persona of ‘Berlin Bromley’, a “self-created androgen”. Alumnus of the ‘Bromley Contingent’ a small group of suburban Londoners who became the core of the King’s Road punk scene focused around Westwood and Maclaren’s shop. Siouxsie Sioux of loved to shock, wearing a swastika armband and little else. Here’s some quotations from the notebooks:
“Bette Boop is my favourite, Siouxsie use to do good impersonations of her about 2yrs ago. But now Siouxsie is more likely to do impressions of Hitler”.
“I felt like I’d found an older sister, one who really didn’t give a shit about anything but loved being with boys who looked like girls, there was no sexual intent from either of us. She wasn’t a fag hag she was the queen of queens”.
“There is no such thing as Love Bites.
There is .. Bites of Lust.
Or Passion Bites.
Or Tattos of Pleasure”
“But all have tatto’s all three have criminal tendencies and fine bodies”
“I just don’t understand people or person who can’t cope with the sex force”
“Bella [Freud] and I went out on speed and ended up on downers which made us vey woozy”
“Debauchery again – around at Bella’s last night – where pigeons flap at dawn – tasted cocaine For The First Time For The First Time – no sides affects”.
BERMAN (Wallace). A letter signed to Charles Plymell,
20.2 x 15.9 cm., 1l.,[2pp.], pencil, signed ‘W’ at the end of the second edition. N.p. [Topanga Canyon?], n.d. c. 1965. £875
A fascinating letter inflected with the Bebop style language of Berman‘s bohemian circle and possibly concerning his collaboration with the second edition of Plymell’s zine ‘Now’ entitled ‘Now, Now’. There is a creative ‘sense of touch’ with both the scribbled writing and most especially the ‘W’. Plymell was part of the very vibrant scene around 1403 Gough Street, San Francisco. The whole letter reads,
enclosed some pieces for yr ‘shot’ – woodblock with nuns etc. is by Ben Tal-bert – the work with Egyptian drawing is by R. Driscoll – The drawing (Kiss) is by George Herms.
The second piece on brown paper is by I.E. Alexander. -I’ll try to remember to Put the names on the back so there will not be name hangups [line scrubbed out in pencil] My credit on my work should be W. Berman if not too late otherwise Wallace Berman is cool – formal – peachy – & distinguished. W.”
Imagine my perplexity when my nine-year-old son, who’d met this “artist” only weeks before here in our home, asked me if that dildo was really made of some Japanese plastic which would further depress our domestic styrene industry
LEIBOVITZ (Annie) Shooting Stars. The Rolling Stone Book of Portraits.
Profusely illustrated with b&w photos. First edition not for trade Folio, blank, half-title, title, contents, pp-9-159, in the original white cloth, titles in gilt ‘bullethole’ esign on the upper boad, illsutrated jacket.
A signed, inscribed and dated presentation copy from the editor to an unknown recipient. Leibowitz has also tipped in an original 5.7 cm. squared colour Polaroid autoportrait of her in dress-up as a baseball player, which is also inscribed and dated in the same hand on the verso. San Francisco, Straight Arrow Books, 1973. £5,500
Cloth a bit browned and dusty, jacket shabby, chipped and dusty.
The full inscription, boldy in blue Biro on the half-title reads:
“April 14, 1981
well edward – to a good beginning
The Polaroid is stuck in below this, the inscription reads:
“4/29/81 Test / Billy Martin / Time”.
Leibovitz is drag kinged up as the famous coach of the Oakland As, who appeared as a Time magazine cover story in April 1981. Perhaps a case of Leibovit channelling Cindy Sherman who clowns around in a similar way.
The trade says that the clothbound issue was a special edition, a ‘freebie’ perhaps for industry execs and friends and relations only and perhaps the clipped wrapper removes a not for sale message. Leibovtz, in her preface, says of the book, that:
“This is a book from history, but it is not a history book. Some musicians are shown here more often than their artistic importance might justify. Some are not represented at all. It is a history of the moods and of the times, filtered through the eyes of the best rock and roll photographers in the business”.
These ‘best’ photographers include Leibovitz herself (with potraits of Lennon, Jagger, Tammy Wyette et al), Jim Marshall (portraits of Hendrix, Joplin et al), Elliot Landy (with is famous images of Dylan) and many others. The rather wonderful portrait of Jagger on the jacket is by
Room&Book will be open:
Friday 22 May 11am-6pm
Saturday 23 May 11am-6pm
Sunday 24 May 11am-6pm
And you can find it here: