Fantastic Man 31
Gert Jonkers (Editor in Chief)
Fantastic Man/TOP Publishers BV, Spring and Summer 2020
Paperback | 11-1/2 x 11-1/2 inches | 264 pages | English | ISSN: 1574-8979 | $23.00
The 31st edition of Fantastic Man explores the extraordinary world of REM KOOLHAAS and his fixation with the countryside. Made with, and on, the legendary architect and contrarian thinker it is a thorough investigation into how we live now and how the rural might bring us into the future.
Some of the men to be found inside include Gucci’s mastermind ALESSANDRO MICHELE, the serene property guru ALISTAIR APPLETON, mind-bending art duo RYAN TRECARTIN and LIZZIE FITCH, as well as a full and frank observation of REM himself.
Also appearing are investigations into the tech goldrush sweeping through a Nevada desert, male automobile obsession in China, a desert oasis for cows and a wide variety of rural fashions for Spring and Summer. Please enjoy an extraordinary issue for extraordinary times, the new and unknown decade of 2020, and beyond.
Earlier this month the Guggenheim Museum opened its doors again after shuttering its Frank Lloyd Wright home for nearly seven full months due to the pandemic. Countryside, The Future, curated by Rem Koolhaas and Samir Bantal of OMA/AMO, had been open for just three weeks when lockdown orders forced the Guggenheim and other non-essential businesses to close. With Koolhaas — an architect known for tackling the urban condition and affecting how people think about cities — reorienting himself toward everything non-urban, the exhibition that took over the entire spiraling rotunda of the museum was, not surprisingly, much anticipated. Although early reviews were far from glowing, in those early weeks of 2020 it was certainly shaping up to be the year of Koolhaas and Countryside. Now, in the fall, it's anything but that.
One sign of the immense popularity of Koolhaas and the buildup to Countryside is a whole issue of Forever Man — the Dutch fashion magazine released twice per year — devoted to Koolhaas and the "countryside" theme. After the cover, Koolhaas doesn't appear until page 170. This same portrait of Koolhaas photographed in Amsterdam in February 2020 is followed by Koolhaas as shot by the same photographer in 2010 and 2000 (second and third spreads below). Immediately after is a 25-page, three-part "superinterview" by Emily King that is perceptive, entertaining, and revealing (nicely, Fantastic Man has all three parts of the interview online), and is accompanied in the margins by a "rich supply of Koolhaasian information," à la S,M,L,XL.
Twenty-five pages of a 264-page magazine leaves a lot more pages to fill. So how about the rest of the issue? There are shorter interviews accompanying the superinterview: one with landscape architect Bradley Kraushaar, who worked on Countryside while at Harvard GSD; one with AMO head and co-curator Samir Bantal; and one with "Swiss super curator" and "REM friend" Hans Ulrich Obrist. That still leaves 235 pages... Some of the remainder are filled up by longish articles on subjects related to Countryside: exploring rural Nevada, where "the future is taking shape"; Felix Burrichter's interview with Black farmer John Boyd, Jr., who sued the government, successfully, for billions; a visit to Al Khor, Qatar, where 3,000 cows and tons of hay were flown in years ago to avert a milk shortage; and photographs of Dutch polders, among others. But most of the magazine's pages are occupied by fashion spreads, though each one is also geared to the theme: in Rotterdam, with OMA's De Rotterdam a frequent backdrop; "farmers" in Ivky, Ukraine (first spread), echoing the cover of the Countryside book; designer Sander Lak modeling the collection his label, Sies Marjan, collaborated on with OMA for the Guggenheim exhibition; even Chinese men and their cars. The balance of the issue is, like most fashion magazines, ads — about 60 pages between the cover and the A-Z table of contents.
I happened upon this issue of Forever Man at a chain bookstore about an hour after I visited the Guggenheim before its October 3rd reopening, a trip I made to see if anything in the exhibition had changed to address the pandemic. (Spoiler alert: very little had.) If I had seen the issue on any other day, before or after, I probably would have passed. And I doubt I would have searched out the issue online at this point, after it's been pulled from shelves and replaced with #32, "The Hair Issue." But if you're a die-hard Koolhaas fan and think Countryside, The Future (on display until February 14, 2021) is a great exhibition, and not "frequently obnoxious" or merely "a splatter of rural-themes factoids," then this issue is for you.