What if artists got to respond to writers the way writers often get to respond to artists? This was question Emma Cline, the award-winning author of The Girls (2016) and Daddy (2020), brought to Larry Gagosian when she pitched creating a new imprint under his namesake gallery’s existing publishing house. The imprint, Picture Books, will see artists create a work in response to a text they’ve been paired with.
To launch the imprint, Ottessa Moshfegh, author of My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018), has offered up her new novel, My New Novel (2021), to inspire a work by artist Issy Wood. Titled the down payment (2021), the painting is an interpretation of a surreal moment in the book where its protagonist is weeping, surrounded by chipmunks.
The second pairing for the imprint is Percival Everett’s Grand Canyon, Inc (2021), which will be accompanied by a color photograph from Richard Prince’s 2013 series “Original Cowboys.” Available next month, the book and its accompanying artwork will be packaged together as a limited-edition hardcover and printed poster, and will cost $30.
Authors Mary Gaitskill and Elif Batuman are currently working on texts for the imprint, to be published at a later date. Peter Mendelsund, an author and the creative director of The Atlantic, will serve as the imprint’s creative director. In a statement, Mendelsund said he is interested in exploring through the new project “what can’t words show, and what can’t art say?”
Cline first worked with Gagosian when she was asked to write a catalogue essay about Walton Ford. The experience, she said, got her to “thinking about my writer friends who also write about art and I just felt like there wasn’t quite the same space for like an artist to respond to a work of fiction.”
Though Picture Books is a Gagosian imprint, the artists selected will not exclusively come from the gallery’s roster. “It was important to me that it wouldn’t just be Gagosian artists,” Cline said. Instead the focus will be on reading a new text and “trying to think which artist [will] really resonate” with it.