A presentation of books and posters relating to Maurice Girodias’ Olympia Press (1953 – 1973) made in association with Rob Tufnell.
French publisher Maurice Girodias (1919–1990) made (and lost) a fortune selling transgressive, erotic novels to American GIs and English speaking tourists in Paris in the years after the Second World War. Several of these were written under pseudonyms by respected literary figures including Christopher Logue and Alexander Trochhi (for whom he provided the respective names Count Palmiro Vicarion and Frances Lengel). Prior to this, in the 1940s, Girodias brazenly sold German language guidebooks to French chateaux to members of the occupying Wehrmacht. Aside from what Vladimir Nabokov described as “vulgar little books… of exactly the same nature as the pictures hawked on dark corners of a nun with a St Bernard, or a sailor with a sailor”, Girodias is best remembered as the first publisher of Georges Bataille’s ‘A Tale of Satisfied Desire’ (1953), Samuel Beckett’s ‘Molloy’ (1955), ‘Malone Dies’ and ‘The Unnamable’ (both 1959), William Burroughs’ ‘Naked Lunch’ (1959), Henry Miller’s ‘Plexus’ (1953) and ‘Nexus’ (1959) and Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’ (1955), Pauline Réage’s ‘Story of O’ (1956) and Valerie Solanas’ ‘S.C.U.M. Manifesto’ (1967) amongst other significant books. He was also the publisher of the important literary journals Merlin (1952 – 1954) and Bataille’s ‘Critique’ (1946 – 1950) and yet notorious for disputes with his Authors.
Alongside books published by the Olympia Press in Paris and New York and under franchise in London and Darmstadt the presentation includes several graphic works. These include two posters made by the poet Christopher Logue (1926 – 2011). Girodias published Logue’s first volume of poetry, ‘Wand and Quadrant (1953). Logue was also a founder of Merlin and writing as Count Palmiro Vicarion produced books of ‘Bawdy Ballads’ (1955), crude limericks (1956) and an erotic novel, ‘Lust’ (1959) for Girodias. His ‘Sex War Sex Cars Sex’ poster was produced a decade later in 1967 in collaboration with the pop-artist Derek Boshier. Logue and Boshier believed that anything involving sex, war and cars would inevitably be commercially successful. ‘Kiss Kiss’, 1968, parodies a concurrent advertising campaign for the British Egg Marketing Board: ‘Go to work on an egg.’ The poster appears fleetingly in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971), hanging on the wall of the Korova Milk Bar. Both posters were sold by Gear, the famous Carnaby Street fashion boutique in London.
Also displayed is a poster for Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s ‘Querelle’ (1982) incorporating artwork commissioned by Fassbinder from Andy Warhol. The film was based upon Jean Genet’s ‘Querelle de Brest’ (1947) – one of several Genet novels later published in translation by the Olympia Press. Valerie Solanas fell out with Girodias over ‘typographical errors’ in the first edition of her Manifesto and subsequently determined to kill him. Finding him absent from his apartment at the Chelsea Hotel in New York she pursued Warhol instead (who she’d accused of losing an original play manuscript she had written). Warhol would eventually die as a result of the gunshot wound inflicted by Solanas in 1987 (19 years later). Solanas’ radical feminism was satirised in Warhol’s film ‘Women in Revolt’ (1971).
Other works include screen prints by Peter Saville (of knots frequently employed as BDSM restraints) and William Stok, a poster designed by John Baldessari and a unique collage by Linder.