Chic Geeks Discuss Steven Heller’s Book About Propaganda

Last night, art lovers and history nerds alike gathered at the Phaidon bookstore in Soho to celebrate the release of Steven Heller’s Iron Fists: Branding the 20th-Century Totalitarian State. In honor of his book, Phaidon and Esopus Magazine hosted a panel discussion with Heller, Shepard Fairey, and Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky) to discuss propaganda, modern advertising, and oppressive political regimes. Thank god for the open bar.

Heller’s book is a study of propaganda and political advertising during four 20th century totalitarian regimes: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, the Soviet Union, and Communist China. In his presentation, he emphasized the power of facial characteristics (think Hitler’s mustache), the importance of symbols made synonymous with each of these regimes (the sickle and hammer), and the “cult of hate” that perpetuated racist ideologies. Makes for a lighthearted conversation.

Bringing Heller’s discussion to modern times, Shepard Fairey discussed his work on the Obama poster. He likened Obama’s campaign images to totalitarian propaganda, stating that the effectiveness of both campaign posters are based in similar design ideas — bold colors, minimal wording, and a single strong visual image. Just to be super clear, this in no way means that our president is a dictator. Fairey just lifted some simple advertising techniques from certain dictators.

In the hip Phaidon shop, trendy intellectuals gathered together to listen to these three eloquent speakers discuss their ideas, careers, and cultural findings. Who knew that history, politics, art, and design could come together over drinks? Smart is definitely the new sexy.

Phaidon Pops Up in NYC

The trend of brands spawning pop-up shops as opposed to permanent storefronts is showing no sign of slowing. The latest participant: Phaidon, the British publisher behind decades of iconic tomes covering art, design, architecture, and photography. They’re setting up shop in New York’s Soho. The publisher will occupy a whopping 2,500 square feet at 100 Wooster Street for just shy of three months. In addition to art and design books, Phaidon-approved titles like Wallpaper’s city guides and cookbooks like The Silver Spoon will likewise be up for grabs.

“Other goodies include collector’s editions on such luminaries as Nobuyoshi Araki, Nan Goldin, Martin Parr and Luc Tuymans, as well as events and special offers,” says Cool Hunting. The store is opening on November 2 (where it will remain through January) just a hop, skip and a jump away from Taschen’s relatively new Soho shop. The move is no doubt a strategic one — not to mention the store will very methodically remain open throughout the holiday shopping season. No matter, as what better stocking stuffer than works from aforementioned provocateurs like Araki and Goldin?