Nicolae Ceausescu was Romania’s leader between 1965 and 1989, with his wife Elena playing a prominent role. The couple established one of the most totalitarian states in the history of Eastern Europe. As part of the personality cult characteristic for any dictatorship, hundreds of portraits of Elena and Nicolae were realized by artists across the country during this period of time. “CEAU” is an artist’s book by Christoph Büchel and Giovanni Carmine which presents a selection of such portraits preserved in the storage vaults of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest. These artworks had either been commissioned by a variety of political bodies within the Socialist Republic of Romania or had been offered to the Ministry of Culture as a gift by the artists themselves before the fall of the Ceausescu regime.
The book resembles a fake masterpiece that could have originated under the Romanian dictatorship. The glossy paper along with the artificial leather cover embossed with golden letters and the acetate jacket add to the books flashy finish that vividly highlights the narcissism of the couple. As a counterpoint the book ends with a transcript of the trial of the Ceausescus, who were sentenced to death and executed on Christmas 1989. The artist’s book was awarded as one of The Most Beautiful Swiss Books 2008.
Steidl, by Christoph Büchel and Giovanni Carmine, 2008, 15.5 x 20.5 cm, 352 pages, 318 colour plates, artificial leather bound book with gold foil stamping and an acetate jacket