Hugo Claus' mythical Love Song
"Taller than a man": there is one work in the immense legacy of Hugo Claus that even the most passionate collector will never capture: Love Song. This mythic book was planned to be the largest book on earth but was never published, although a life-size dummy was presented in New York and Amsterdam and it already entered the Dutch edition of The Guinness Book of Records.
The project was conceived by Andreas Landshoff for Abrams New York and would result in a maximum of twelve copies, containing poems by Hugo Claus and paintings by Karel Appel. With a starting price of $ 5.225 (soon raised to ƒ 18.000) and with the uncommon dimensions of 210 cm. high and 80 cm. wide the first announcement was made: "the conception reflects the bold and unorthodox methods of the recent art world, in its materials, content, and in its size [...]. The material is new for a book. It is made not of paper and cloth, but of heavy plastic sheets and glass in the method of "stained windows". [...] the owner may disassemble and reassemble the book in any sequence of "pages" he may desire. Thus the book can also get changed into a large screen or room divider". Karel Appel characterized his contribution as follows: "a scream in the night", "a tiger behind bars" and "new apparitions that stalk the earth" and Hugo Claus is introduced as "the 'far-out' poet and playwright [...], Holland's leading surrealist author". Appel "provide the vehement, muscular, primordial designs which have made him a favourite of avant-garde collectors and museums everywhere. Hugo Claus' poems are oblique, highly provocative word-images that are an excellent foil to Appel's designs, in spirit and intent". But, despite all this, no copies were ordered and the only thing remained was the dummy and Van der Elsken's reportage. The dummy has long gone, to Colorado, where it serves as a paravant next to the swimming pool, but the original photos by Ed van der Elsken and the autograph poem by Hugo Claus are here, untouched. They are the closest you can get to this myth.
The Love Song collection was offered in auction 'Modern & Contemporary Art (after 1900) - NRC veilingen 5', June 2016, with the following description:
CLAUS - ELSKEN, Ed van der (Dutch 1925 - 1990) - APPEL, Karel - CLAUS, Hugo. Love Song, a collection, 1963. The collection consists of: 1. A folded sheet with the autograph poem 'The horse of the universe [...]' by Hugo Claus [= the complete text for the book]; 2. A reportage by Ed van der Elsken of 'the making of the largest book in the world', consisting of 20 vintage silver prints: 4 silverprints, 24 x 30 cm. with copyright stamp of Van der Elsken (on the reverse), 13 silver prints 18 x 23.7 cm., with copyright stamp and stamp 'If this picture is published, rights are due to Ed van der Elsken' (on the reverse), 4 also stamped by ABC Press; 1 photo 18 x 23.5 cm. of the initiator of the project Andreas Landshoff by an unknown photographer; 2 photos 18 x 24 cm. of the Vernissage Karel Appel, 21 May 1963 by Augustin Dumage, with his copyright stamp and stamped by Galerie Anderson-Mayer in Paris; 2 colour slides under passe-partout 5.6 x 5.7 cm.; 3. A copy of Hugo Claus. Love Song Revisited, Amstelveen, AMO, 1987, original wrappers, cover discoloured, published in 25 copies, this is number 5 with autograph dedication 'voor Andreas con amore Hugo Claus' and an autograph correction by Gert Jan Hemmink; 4. A copy of the announcement of the publication by the publisher Abrams, Sheet of paper, folded twice and 5. 2 copies of 'Aantekening', a different version of the epilogue in 'Love Song Revisited' by Gert Jan Hemmink.