Important Artifacts and Personal Property From The Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry - Leanne Shapton
Important Artifacts... is quite possibly one of the most creatively done books I've ever read. Shown though an auction catalog, the book tells a story of two lovers (Doolan and Morris) through notes, gifts, books, clothes, and more all being auctioned off due to the fact that the relationship has ended. That's right - the story is told through pictures and explanations of each auctioned item.
Starting with the first time they met, each lot contains a memento from their four year relationship (2002-2006). From the invitation to a Halloween party where they mutually attended (dressed as Harry Houdini and Lizzie Borden) to dried flowers kept by both parties, the story of their love emerges. The items progress as the relationship does - from love notes hidden between pages of old paperbacks to angry e-mails sent from across the sea. The book shows what's left behind after a relationship ends.
Leanne Shapton, the art director for the New York Times Op-ed page, excellently puts together this story. In a fantastic interview with the New York Times, she states: “It’s sort of about how reliant we are on our things to define us,” Ms. Shapton said, acknowledging that there is a strain of what she described as somewhat “suffocating discernment” running through the protagonists’ lives. “But I wanted to balance that with a pretty genuine love of very private meaning,” she said, adding that most of the things put up for sale are “those kinds of things that mean everything to the person who owned them and nothing to anyone else.”
The book ends with the breakup, of course, but starts with hope. As a preface to the catalog, a recent postcard from Hal states that he and his current girlfriend broke up. That he'd like to see Lenore once again. It leaves the book open for another shot at love, or, another auction.
Important Artifacts... is a brilliantly done quick read that shows the transgression of a relationship. And how little artifacts can really tell a lot about a person or a time period.
Watch a clip with Shapton here and read an interview here.
The book's movie adaptation is currently in progress, staring Brad Pitt and Natalie Portman.