Ivorypress Art + Book

Ivorypress, Calle del Aviador Zorita, Madrid, Spain

+34 914 49 09 61

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Madrid is well-known for its incredible museums like the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen collection but on a recent visit I discovered an incredible treasure that is breaking new ground with many of the world’s top living artists. Founded by Madrid native Lady Elena Ochoa Foster, who is the wife of legendary architect Sir Norman Foster, Ivorypress defies easy description. Technically it is a press that publishes artist’s books but in reality it is more like an art gallery­­–cum–think tank because the collaborations that Ivorypress (and Lady Elena herself, who is intensely involved with each) undertakes with artists like Anish Kapoor, Damien Hirst, Ron Arad and Maya Lin push the envelope of art and knowledge.

On a recent visit, one of the curators described their definition of a book as being ideas that fit inside a box. An example on display was Francis Bacon’s Detritus, “a book” that occupied an entire room; in the center was a glass box holding an old leather suitcase spilling over with scraps, notes and drawings, and on the surrounding walls were glass “pages” holding similar memorabilia that had been found in Bacon’s studio upon his death. Sketches, photos, telegrams and magazine clippings were gathered like a scrapbook to illustrate the mind of the artist or to deconstruct his process in objects. Every “book” is done in editions; some as small as six but in the Bacon case that meant that a perfect facsimile of every scrap was created down to the crease or tear or stain on yellowed receipt. That is what makes this place a press and not a gallery.

Though for a visitor the experience can be much like visiting a gallery or museum. The space, which was designed by Sir Norman Foster on the site of a former press, includes a bookstore, a temporary exhibition area and rooms devoted to the permanent collection, where you may see the Damien Hirst “book,” which is really a collection of his greatest hits. The box, which resembles a casket complete with satin lining, has space for all that hangs around it—his iconic works including a skull, a butterfly, a cross that is a cabinet with pills and more. And display cases also contain Lady Elena’s collection of artist books such as Picasso notebooks from when he was a teenager, Josef Albers book of colors, the only complete set of Goya’s proverbs in existence and the last remaining woodblock for a Miro print. Another “book” on display on a recent visit was Jenny Holzer sayings flashed on a wall by a projector.

Seeing Ivorypress, there is a feeling of visiting a laboratory and a treasure chest all at once but also of a magical coincidence. In 1996 Lady Elena, who was a prominent professor of psychopathology, was seated next to Lord Sainsbury at a dinner. After she told him about her love for artists’ books, he suggested she devote herself to them. The Ivorypress was born. Today, it has offices in the UK and Switzerland but it is only in Madrid where you can visit the Ivorypress Art + Books, the gallery and exhibition space and discover something truly innovative in the world of art. People who run the institution are perfectly positioned because of their passion and their connections (to create something important and impactful.) Take a tour of the Ivorypress with one of its curators, and you will feel blessed to be let in on this special secret in the heart of Madrid that has an impact for art lovers around the world.

Written by Melissa Biggs Bradley

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