The celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Ivorypress art book publisher will be as traveling and social as its founder, Elena Ochoa Foster. Or at least as much as she could have been until the pandemic hit and she was stranded with her husband, British architect Norman Foster, in their residence in Switzerland. He has spent practically the whole year there – except for a couple of trips to Europe in the summer – and from St. Moritz he connected by videoconference last Monday to talk about the story of his adventure and his future plans. He goes out to a terrace looking for better coverage, he does not wear any of his characteristic sunglasses, just a white shirt and red lips. “This year we have lost very dear friends, in the last three weeks. I feel the anguish of not being able to hug, travel or stay for dinner, ”he says. The forced retirement imposed by the pandemic has left him time to read, and he has started taking long daily walks in which somehow the work of Richard Long, one of the first artists he worked with, reverberates.
In her role as editor, Ochoa Foster has concentrated her energy on bringing together more than a hundred people on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the peculiar label, which she launched in 1996. This time she has not brought them together in a room, or in her gallery Madrid, but in the pages of Looking Forward (Looking forward). This book is presented in an articulated box and is broken down into three volumes – subtitled Words (words), Books (books) and Stories (stories) -, which have been edited in English by Claire Brandon in a small and surprisingly light format.
Photogallery | 25 years of Ivorypress
The guest list for this meeting It is notable. The first volume brings together 60 scattered texts created in these 25 years for some of the Ivorypress initiatives and includes from a letter signed by the media performer Marina Abramovic on her own biography, to an article by the poet Jorie Graham, including the also poet John Giorno, the photographer Martin Parr or the artist Maya Lin, the musician Brian Eno, the poet Adam Zagajewski, and the writers Mario Vargas Llosa and Hans Magnus Enzensberger, among others. Meanwhile, the second volume focuses on the backbone of Ivorypress, that is, on the 16 artist books that the label has published.
Finally, the 50 interviews presented in the third volume function as a peculiar oral history, a chorus of voices among which is heard that of Elena Ochoa Foster herself. “We wanted it to be a plural testimony, to include the friends with whom we built Ivorypress, some like Carlos Fuentes, Baudrillard or John Berger, who are gone,” he explains. “The book is a scrawny summary of what we have done; we wanted to synthesize our activity as a publisher that is still small, but has a global influence ”.
The quarter-century of its publisher will also be accompanied, if the pandemic allows it, by 15 small samples, all different, of Ivorypress books in prestigious European and American centers such as Yale, Stanford or Cambridge universities as well as the National Library or the Reina Sofía Museum.
He says that the first artist volume in his collection was given to him by his father – “Constellations, by Joan Miró ”-. And her husband gives her every Christmas with one more that she adds to the Ivorypress library. “Marcel Duchamp was the one who really revolutionized the genre. With each object or material he worked with, he went further and he is my point of reference ”, he affirms, and underlines how constrained artist’s books were that simply showed drawings or photographs together with a text. Nothing to do with the creative freedom with which they work at Ivorypress. “I’m an intrusive and control-obsessed director,” she says. “I asked the artists if they wanted to make the book, and when in any case they told me no, I kept insisting until they saw that they would not have any time, material or cost limitations”. It has taken up to five years for an artist to auction off and decide what they want to do. “It takes physical and psychological stamina, and having confidence that you will make it.”
It was a client and good friend of her husband, supermarket mogul Bob Salisbury, who encouraged her to enter this particular niche of art books. After her stint on Spanish television in 1990, she had turned to academia, had spent a few years in Cambridge and had recently landed permanently in London. “Bob had published quite a few artist books and was a great patron, for example, of Francis Bacon. He told me that although he was for many the type of the supermarkets, thanks to art he had met and dealt with Giacometti or Henry Moore. He encouraged me to explore that world.
The project started with a brief work table and a telephone, but it is enough to hear her string together stories to understand that her tasks as an editor in these 25 years have involved a lot of action. “It is a wandering process that in some cases has involved searching for Richard Long for a paper whose composition had straw and stone until he came across a lost mill in France where it was manufactured, or trying to find a mechanism that would allow him to open the sculpted tome of Anthony Caro, something Zaha Hadid helped me solve ”. The publisher has never told an artist that something could not be done, but neither, she acknowledges, does she take no for an answer.
The first Ivorypress artist’s book was made with the Spanish sculptor Eduardo Chillida, and soon he added another line to the editorial with the publication of a photography magazine C-Photo, inspired by the legendary Selfish by Nicole Wisniak. “I was always a great fan of photography. The magazine was one of the reasons why we ended up opening the library and gallery in Madrid [en la calle del Aviador Zorita]”, remember. Unstoppable, the publisher was undertaking a much larger company, adding new projects and ideas with the collection of more affordable Liberars books, exhibitions, artist monographs, conferences and panels, and lately also the creation of libraries tailored to the customers who demand it.
What lies ahead? “The new generation is not so attached to private spaces, it understands art as something more public, civic and political,” he reflects. “I do not know what we will do in the future, but it will not be the same as until now, although I will continue with artists’ books because that is the umbilical cord.”
The editor claims the whim, doing things on impulse when she wants, because in these projects she puts her heart and mind. Now he has carried out public art projects in three cities, and has launched a new collection of books on cities with a first title on Rome that he has not yet been able to present and a second one dedicated to Madrid that is about to come out and is run by Alberto García. Alix. He says goodbye, he has to connect to a class about Dante and The Divine Comedy. The human and the divine. Nothing is alien to him.