Space of the Week: A Life in the Stacks

When artist Ed Baynard told me he has been working on a photography project documenting New Yorker writer and critic Vince Aletti’s East Village apartment, I jumped at the chance to feature some of the photographs here. Vince, who is currently curating a show that will open in September at the International Center of Photography called “Harper’s Bazaar: A Decade in Style,” is an avid collector (and fastidious stacker!) of printed media: books, magazines, newspapers, framed prints, and so on. He has been friends with Ed, whose work is part of the permanent collection at the Met, the Whitney, MoMA, and the Tate in London, among other illustrious institutions, for 35 years. Here is a shot of a hallway inside Vince’s seven-room apartment, where he has lived since 1976. “This is pretty much a storage and staging area,” Vince says. Photo: Ed Baynard

Vince has extensive issues of House & Garden, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. This Irving Penn cover from 1944 has never been reproduced in any of Mr. Penn’s books. “I was puzzled by this,” Vince says, “and I asked [Penn] why it has never been included. It must not have been important to him. He blew me off.” Photo: Ed Baynard

Ed shot this photo from the living room facing Vince’s office with its all-purpose dinner table. “When I moved here in ’76 from a two-room apartment off Avenue A, I didn’t have much furniture,” Vince remembers. “The heavy round table I still use as a desk/dining table; I had a few knockoff Thonet chairs, a mattress on the floor, no sofa. I push-pinned some posters and magazine pages to the walls as a way of claiming the space. But I was glad to have it empty while I grew into the seven rooms. Hard to imagine that now.” Photo: Ed Baynard

A corner of the office/library (though, of course, every room in this apartment acts as a library). This is one man who will likely never own a Kindle. “I cannot bear the idea that magazines or books are seen as on the brink of extinction,” he says. “I will continue to worship at the magazine stand and the independent bookstore until the last one disappears. And then maybe I’ll open my own.” Photo: Ed Baynard

At the top of the tallest pile of books in the apartment (easily over six feet tall) sits a bust that’s a cheap copy of Michelangelo’s David. Photo: Ed Baynard

The guest room is devoted to Vince’s complete run of Vogue magazines from the thirties to the present. He also has the same years covered of Harper’s Bazaar and almost as many French and British Vogues. Photo: Ed Baynard

There is no space that is not bookworthy, not even the window sills. Ed thinks the books echo the architecture of the city outside. Photo: Ed Baynard

Vince’s bedroom is, naturally, a repository for his ever-growing collection. The metal bookstand at the end of the bed was purchased at Pottery Barn years ago. Although Vince admits “these piles are permanent, I am afraid,” he does change the open book or magazine on the stand to denote whatever is of interest to him at any particular time. Photo: Ed Baynard

Vince also collects American pottery, “mostly Bauer, Harlequin, Stangl, Russell Wright, and California potters. All pretty much from flea-market finds.” Photo: Ed Baynard

Another view of Vince’s paper kingdom. He says he keeps his collections “in cabinets, shelves, drawers, boxes, and on piles on the floor. It’s not chaotic, but it is not organized, except by the time something came into my possession. Sometimes it can take me a day to find a book I know I have. And sometimes I just give up.” Photo: Ed Baynard

Space of the Week: A Life in the Stacks