The affable Italian businessman that heads up the famous art book publisher has a passion for print which manifests itself in a few surprising ways.

Affable and well-travelled Italian Marco Ausenda is President and CEO of one of the world’s best art book publishers, The Rizzoli Publishing House. You may not have heard of Rizzoli but, if you are a book lover, you more than likely have one of its hardbacks on your coffee table.

La Granda Bellaza

One of the most successful art and fashion book publishers, it started life as part of the Italian-American Rizzoli publishing empire. The New York Times has said that the publishing house “has long published some of the most beautiful illustrated books in the world”. The company still boasts a flagship 1964 Ferdinand-Gottlieb-designed grand Rizzoli bookshop on New York’s Fifth Avenue, “the most beautiful bookshop in the world”.

Taking on this mantle might have phased some, but Ausenda has a strong publishing background; before taking the helm at Rizzoli in 2002, he headed up the Touring Club of Italy, a publisher of guides and maps.

A Better Shelf

Under Ausenda’s leadership, Rizzoli has re-focused on its arts publishing business; extending its reach from art, architecture, interior design, photography, haute couture, and gastronomy to the pop-culture worlds of humor, fashion, beauty, sports, performing arts, and gay and alternative lifestyles. And, at the same time, closing many of its bookshops in the difficult US market – which the company says are difficult to manage from across the Atlantic.

But Ausenda has a clear passion for the book trade and says he loves to visit bookshops when on the many travels on which his job takes him, telling Portuguese UP Magazine from the Portuguese airline company TAP magazine:

“This is a profession where I don’t feel like I’m working. It’s so interesting that it’s more passion than work… For me, a bookshop is a museum, a supermarket, a harvest, because it takes years to produce a book. For example, if a competitor creates a better shelf, you always learn something.”

Feeding the Soul

With homes in Italy, Ausenda prefers to travel with work – it offers a better insight into the way people really live than tourism can, he says. Although he does admit to a love of museums; the German History Museum at the Unter den Linden in Berlin is a particular favourite:

“You can spend a whole day in there and its unbelievable, you understand a little bit of everything, from the Reformation to the printing of paper.”

So, what printed paper takes this publisher’s fancy? Surprisingly for a publisher of glossy art books, he claims a particular love for The Economist:

“I’m addicted to The Economist magazine – the printed version, of course! I love the special issues because they have unusual articles on everything: art, culture, social history. And the supplements that predict economic trends. And they have a sense of humour, they say things like, ‘well, this is what we said last year’; they’re not afraid.”