Leanne Shapton

This article is from 2010.

Leanne Shapton

Crafting a wholly original literary conceit

Title aside, Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry is one of the most intriguing US publications from the last 12 months. The story of a couple’s initial passion, which flattens out before ultimately disintegrating, is told through the somewhat rarely-utilised literary tool of the auction catalogue. Suspend your disbelief and enter the world of Lenore and Harold, whose joint possessions were sold off on Valentine’s Day of 2009, at Strachan & Quinn Auctioneers, the trajectory of their life together told in the straight commentary beside each lot, as well as through the hand-written letters and notes which accompany many of the items.

‘Hal is at a point in his life where he comes first, especially in this romantic relationship,’ New York illustrator and author Shapton admits. ‘Lenore is impressed and charmed by him, and is looking for confirmation of her own artistic values through him. We tolerate all sorts of humiliations when all we see is what we want to see.’ Though the idea is a wholly original literary one, it’s based on Shapton’s recollection of reading a Truman Capote catalogue about his final years in Hollywood and an exhibition brochure on the correspondence between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.

While many of the objects in the book/catalogue were new purchases (Shapton says she perhaps spent too much on a heart-shaped toast rack), over half of Lenore and Hal’s ‘personal property’ came from Shapton’s own archive. ‘It was surprisingly easy to create new histories for my objects,’ she says. ‘I found the dogs that wound up on the cover at a flea market. I was busy collecting random things at that point of the process, and working them into the story.’

29 Aug (with Adam Ross), 8.30pm, £10 (£8).

Adam Ross & Leanne Shapton

The buzz around Adam Ross’s debut novel, Mr Peanut, has become a frenzy since Stephen King described it as ‘the most riveting look at the dark side of marriage since Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’, while Leanne Shapton’s extraordinary book Important Artifacts drives its narrative through the captions in a fictional…

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