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
Measurements: 9.5 x 11.75 x 11.75 inches
Publication date: Aperture, 2022-01-25