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How to Start an Art Collection

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Whether you consider it an investment, a hobby or just a cool way to decorate the walls in your home, acquiring new art can be a fun and exhilarating experience. Although many people assume collecting art is only for millionaires, the truth is you can start your own art collection on any budget. You may not have the funds to fill it with famous pieces, but all that matters is that you fill it with pieces you love.

Know What You Like

First, only collect what you like, even if it’s something obscure that others may not appreciate or understand. Unless you’re just trying to make a quick buck — and that’s often hard to do — putting together a collection won’t be fun if you force yourself to choose items just because they’re trendy. If you aren’t sure what you love, go to the library and check out some art history books. Go to art galleries in your community, and check out the artisan booths at local fairs and festivals. Do a simple internet search, visit an antique store or flip through the art at your local craft store or big box store. Figure out what appeals to you, and use that as a starting point.

Know Where to Look

The next step is knowing where to find the art you like. Some of the places you visit to discover your taste may also sell the types of pieces you like. Craft fairs, festivals, antique shops and galleries are good examples, but you can shop for art at many other places, including estate sales, where you may find rare and unique pieces, and art websites like Etsy, ArtStar, Uprise Art and Editioned Art. Some artists allow you to visit their studios, and auction houses typically have art in their inventories. If you go to auctions outside of major cities, you may even find a rare piece at an excellent price.

Do Your Homework

Before you make a purchase, especially an expensive purchase, you want to do your homework on the artist, the item and its background before signing on the dotted line. In some cases, the seller may not realize the value of an item and sell it for a bargain price, but you don’t want to pay too much for a piece, even if you love it. You also want to avoid buying something advertised as an authentic piece that is actually just a reproduction. Be on the lookout for fraudulent items, and learn how to read the documentation that verifies the authenticity and provenance of a piece of art.

Take It Slow

If you know your budget for starting an art collection, don’t rush out and spend it all in one day. Don’t expect to put together a huge, envious collection overnight. It takes time to curate the perfect collection for your interests, tastes and passions. For many art collectors, the hobby becomes a lifelong journey. You never know when a new artist you discover turns into a huge success, making that $100 painting you bought worth a small fortune — and bragging rights — one day. Starting slow also allows you to save up for the more expensive pieces you may want to buy one day.

Treat Your Art Well

Finally, after you purchase your first pieces, make sure you take care of them. Learn how to display and preserve everything you buy, and make sure you have plenty of space to keep your art. Sure, you could rent a storage building if you don’t have enough room in your home for all your treasures, but what’s the point in having an awesome collection if you can’t show it off? If you acquire expensive pieces, insure them against theft and disasters. You may also want to make a plan for what happens to your art after you pass away. If you don’t have family, you may want to donate art to a museum or charity, for example.


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Critics’ Picks

Best Art Books of 2022

Holland Cotter, Jason Farago and Roberta Smith round up their favorite books, from museum catalogs of high-profile shows to photographs by Native artists to the treasures of Ukraine.

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View of seven beautiful art books.

By Jason Farago ,  Holland Cotter and Roberta Smith

Lots of NFT art collections nose-dived in this year’s crypto crash, but a well-stocked library will never lose its value. Museums, galleries and art institutions have not yet lost faith in high-quality print publications in this screened-out century, and even as venues for cultural debate keep shrinking — pour one out for Bookforum , the lively art-adjacent book review that shuttered this week — art publishing remains in fine fettle, with more titles every year than even the most committed bibliomaniac could peruse. My fellow critics and I have selected here some of the best we read in 2022: splashy or studious, affordable or investment-grade, all of them worthy of a space on your shelves. — JASON FARAGO

Jason Farago

Saving Cultures Amid Transformation

‘dare to know: prints and drawings in the age of enlightenment’.

It was the “stay woke” of its day: Sapere aude , “dare to know,” a Latin motto that Immanuel Kant raised to a moral command. This dense and very handsome overview of 18th-century European graphic arts (the catalog of a show on view at Harvard through Jan. 15) takes the form of a dictionary whose 26 chapters, from Antiquities to Zealotry, cast a sharp new glare on the Enlightenment’s transformations in science, economics, religion and liberty. Anatomical studies face off with satires of quack doctors, watercolors of erupting volcanoes with cross-sections of slave ships; and if Enlightenment reason is found somewhat wanting, its philosophers also furnish us tools for its own critique. ( Harvard Art Museums / Yale University Press )

‘Treasures of Ukraine: A Nation’s Cultural Heritage’

This urgent new title introduces us to more than 100 buildings and art objects, from prehistory to the Baroque era to the bomb-shelter present, in the nation we now finally see as the heart of Europe. With chapters on Orthodox icons and Catholic cathedrals, Soviet avant-gardism and nationalist folk crafts, this book illustrates a culture whose very diversity now puts it in danger — and indeed some works pictured, such as stone statues near Kharkiv dating from the 9th to 13th century, have already been destroyed. The Ukraine war is a culture war, and these are the stakes. All proceeds from the book’s sale are being donated to PEN Ukraine. ( Thames & Hudson )

‘Recaptioning Congo’

The curator and Rutgers professor Sandrine Colard organized one of the most ambitious shows I saw this year, at Antwerp’s photography museum: an excavation of photographs from Congo under Belgian colonial rule , by Europeans and Africans, as propaganda and as free expression. The trilingual catalog is even more expansive, and unfolds rare amateur photo magazines, 1930s studio portraiture, missionary and ethnographic documentation, and also wrenching but important photos of colonial atrocities (framed here with uncommon care). A talented slate of African writers, including the novelists In Koli Jean Bofane and Annie Lulu , offers crucial readings. ( Fotomuseum Antwerp / Lannoo )

‘On Bramante’

Is there any application today of Renaissance classicism to our glutted cities, anything the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica can teach builders of condos and duty-free concessions? Pier Paolo Tamburelli, an architect and editor of the now defunct cult magazine San Rocco , insists in this spirited treatise that Donato Bramante’s spatial innovations can propel a new practice of “architecture as public art.” Strange, sometimes flippant, as conversant with Rem Koolhaas as with Pope Leo X, this book is a rare effort to rethink our present deadlocks through historical models — and its ironic Neo-Classicism is beautifully buttressed by Bas Princen’s spare photographs of Bramante nerve centers: Milan’s Santa Maria delle Grazie , where Leonardo painted “The Last Supper,” or the cloisters of Rome’s Santa Maria della Pace. ( MIT Press )

‘In the Name of the Image: Figurative Representation in Islamic and Christian Cultures’

So much of this century’s fanaticism and insularity has rested on a stubborn error about art and religion: Christians like pictures, Muslims don’t. The far richer truth is that the world’s two largest religions both have long histories of creating images and destroying them — as detailed in this learned book, the catalog for a major show I saw last spring at the Museum Rietberg in Zurich. Looking at Byzantine coins, Persian miniatures, and images of Jesus and Muhammad both preserved and scratched out, Axel Langer and a dozen other scholars dissolve the clean Occident-Orient opposition inherited from the 19th century, and reveal how iconophilia and iconophobia go hand in hand. ( Hatje Cantz )

Holland Cotter

Serendipitous Pairs and Single Masterworks

‘speaking with light: contemporary indigenous photography’.

One of the year’s singular beauties was this catalog accompanying an exhibition at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth (through Jan. 22). The earliest pictures here, dating from the 19th century and taken of Indigenous North Americans by non-Native photographers, emphasize exoticism, controllable otherness. The richly varied work of 20th- and 21st-century Native artists who make up the bulk of the book, edited by John Rohrbach and Will Wilson, moves beyond constricting categories and has the power of poetry. ( Radius Books )

‘Geles Cabrera: Museo Escultórico’

Now 96 and sometimes referred to as Mexico’s “first female sculptor,” for half a century Geles Cabrera produced small-scale, semiabstract cast and carved female forms and displayed them in her own custom-built garden-museum. For a compact career survey, Americas Society created a mini-version of that museum and published a tiny takeaway souvenir catalog that distills the essence of a treasurable artist’s life and work. ( Americas Society/ISLAA (Institute for Studies on Latin American Art )

‘Smokehouse Associates’

For a few years, beginning in 1968, four young New York artists — William T. Williams, Melvin Edwards, Guy Ciarcia and Billy Rose — turned Harlem into abstract art heaven. Calling themselves Smokehouse Associates, they painted neighborhood walls with brilliantly colored abstract murals and enlisted local residents in the creative team. This book, by Eric Booker, was produced by the Studio Museum in Harlem, which came into being at this time (Williams was instrumental in its founding too). It wonderfully catches the energy, in interviews with the original artists and through a generous sheaf of photographs of empty lots being cleaned, walls being prepped, kids playing and pitching in, and artists doing their totally wow-inspiring thing. ( Studio Museum in Harlem ; distributed by Yale University Press )

‘Simone Martini in Orvieto’

The first English-language publication in 30 years devoted to the resplendent 14th-century Tuscan painter focuses on a single altarpiece owned by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and spins interlocking narratives around it: about the artist himself, about the Umbrian city for which he made important work, about the genre of gold-ground painting he perfected, and about the path that brought the altarpiece to Boston, where it is the centerpiece of an exhibition through Jan. 16. Edited by Nathaniel Silver. ( Yale University Press )

‘Códice Maya de México: Understanding the Oldest Surviving Book of the Americas’

The Gardner publication reads like an adventure story, and so does another study of a single work, this one from the Getty Center in Los Angeles and edited by Andrew D. Turner. The Códice Maya de México, an illustrated book in the form of a paper scroll painted by an unknown Mayan artist around 1100 A.D., remains mysterious in its precise meanings, celestial and earthly. Historians writing in the Getty catalog offer fascinating theories on both. And thanks to a foldout insert, we get to peruse the Codex itself, which is as visually inventive as any graphic novel you’ll ever see. ( Getty Publications)

‘Art in the After-Culture: Capitalist Crisis & Cultural Strategy’

When future art historians seek perspectives on our era of billion-dollar auctions, carbon-footprint art fairs, and market-driven diversity, this collection of essays by the American critic Ben Davis is a text they’ll consult. An alert data hoarder, a shrewd analyst, and a propulsive stylist, Davis views the hot-air balloon called the art world in a broad political context. He writes with the coolness of a sociologist, the passion of someone with a horse in the race, and the smarts to avoid both cheerleading and snootiness. ( Haymarket Books )

‘Beautiful, Gruesome and True: Artists at Work in the Face of War’

While Davis’s restricts his beat primarily to the United States, Kaelen Wilson-Goldie’s trim, tough book takes a global view of current art by focusing on politically minded artists living elsewhere: Amar Kanwar in India, Teresa Margolles in Mexico, and a collective called Abounaddara in Syria. They are among the most persistently daring artists we have, and Wilson-Goldie tells us why. ( Columbia Global Reports )

‘New York: 1962-1964’

Designed to match the physical dimensions of old-time Life magazines, “New York: 1962-1964” is the catalog for a fabulous Jewish Museum exhibition on new American art and culture in the early 1960s, which the museum did much to promote at the time. Even more than the exhibition itself (through Jan. 8), the book, conceived and edited by Germano Celant, is a packed time capsule, one that includes a detailed timeline of three fire-starting years of public violence, disobedience and liberation. With blast-from-the-past (and echoes-in-the-present) images on every page, it has the pull of a fast-paced documentary film. ( The Jewish Museum / Skira )

‘Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces’

Comparably engaging is the catalog for the Museum of Modern Art’s stellar survey “Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces” (through Feb. 18), which chronicles a piece of cultural history from a decade later: the brilliant 12-year run of the first Black-owned commercial art space to gate-crash New York’s white art world. Just Above Midtown opened its doors in 1974 and kept them open, on a shoestring budget, for 12 years, giving debut shows to extraordinary artists in the process. The book captures the JAM vibe, and its lead essay by Thomas (T.) Jean Lax, one of the MoMA show’s curators, that gets my vote as best of the year. ( Museum of Modern Art / The Studio Museum in Harlem ).

‘This Must Be the Place: An Oral History of Latin American Artists in New York, 1965-1975’

Finally, rounding out the saga of a city, and an art world, in the process of inclusionary transformation, I found a page-turner in another Americas Society book, the catalog for the exhibition “This Must Be the Place: Latin American Artists in New York, 1965-1975.” It’s a chronicle of young artists who migrated north to the city to visit or to stay; who mingled — or didn’t — with Latino artists already here; and who, by being here, permanently changed what “art” and “American” meant. ( Americas Society/ISLAA (Institute for Studies on Latin American Art. )


From Louise Bourgeois to Planet Lace

‘threads of power: lace from the textilmuseum st. gallen’.

It turns out that some books can, indeed, be judged by their covers: Their exterior beauty can signal an interior of visual and textual pleasures. So it is with the handsomely proportioned, lace-embossed exterior of “Threads of Power: Lace From the Textilmuseum St. Gallen” at the Bard Graduate Center (through Jan. 1).

Inside, the history of Lace is told in about 17 highly focused essays that cover a great deal of cultural, political and economic as well as lace-making history without being overwhelming. It’s a big ongoing saga, made newly comprehensible here with the latest research, clear prose and lots of pictures. ( Bard Graduate Center, New York; distributed by Yale University Press )

‘Letters to Gwen John’

This marvel of interwoven narratives hinges on imaginary letters written by a living painter, Celia Paul (born 1959), to an admired deceased one, the Welsh painter Gwen John (1876-1939). Their common ground includes reticent, largely figure painting styles; formative but damaging relationships with difficult older artists (Rodin and Lucian Freud, respectively); and the embrace of solitude as essential to art making, in part because of the domination of male artists. Paul reaches out to John to examine her own life, art, relationships and her work habits, creating a portrait within a self-portrait, flanked by memorable sketches of their feckless lovers. ( New York Review Books )

‘Women Holding Things’

Over the years, Maira Kalman has used her talent for writing and painting in different ways — most often in illustrated books. But rarely has she combined them with such complex resonances as in her latest, “Women Holding Things.” The book’s 85 images — many of them based on appropriated material — constitute a large exhibition; they continue Kalman’s droll evocations of the School of Paris heated up with intensely contemporary reds, magentas and olive greens. With them and their various captions and texts, she pays homage to the people known for holding things together, and includes a few men as well. Depicting relatives, cultural heroes and invented women, Kalman’s images encompass both everyday pleasures and incomprehensible loss, always affirming art’s sustaining grace. ( Harper Design, distributed by HarperCollins Publishers )

‘Louise Bourgeois Paintings’

The catalog “Louise Bourgeois Paintings,” and the revelatory exhibition of the same name at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are the first of their kind. Together, they introduced 50 examples of the artist’s 100 or so almost entirely unknown paintings. Evincing a singularly personal Surrealism and quantities of red, these works were made between 1938, when Bourgeois first arrived in New York, and 1949, when she turned to her sculpture career. Both show and catalog were overseen by Clare Davies, associate curator in the Met’s department of modern and contemporary art, who has commissioned an insightful essay from the art historian Briony Fer. But there’s another bonus: Beyond the paintings in the show, the catalog reproduces around 25 more, meaning that three-quarters of Bourgeois’s contribution to modern painting can now be seen in one place. ( Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York )

Our Writers Pick the 18 Art Books That They Couldn’t Put Down in 2022—and You Won’t Be Able to Either

Among our picks this year are several books that pay homage to unsung artists. No time like the present to give them their due.

Artnet News , December 26, 2022

March Avery, Bedtime Story (1989). ©March Avery, courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.

Here’s a sampling of books published on the the topic in the last year and recommended by our writers, ranging from a delightful romp through the public works of Paris to the serious issue of censorship and the forms it takes in today’s art world.

Plenty of books in between, too, including the role of the art museum in contemporary society and reappraisals of unsung figures of art history, plus several works of fiction inspired by the art world. Add to that a tome by one of Artnet News’s own, Ben Davis, and you’ll have no shortage of material to dig into during the holidays and beyond. Happy reading!

Museums and Wealth: The Politics of Contemporary Art Collections By Nizan Shaked

Nizan Shaked, Museums and Wealth

Nizan Shaked, Museums and Wealth: The Politics of Contemporary Art (2022). Courtesy of Bloomsbury.

In this fascinating and scholarly book, Shaked, professor of Contemporary Art History, Museum, and Curatorial Studies at California State University Long Beach, offers something like a unified theory of what ails museums today. Carefully surveying the power structures that have formed the modern museum “from the Medici to MoMA,” she argues that reforms within the museum are fatally hobbled by the unequal distribution of wealth that creates a patron class in the first place. Whether or not her contention that efforts towards diversifying museum collections are completely doomed by this fact is totally true, Shaked’s book is very valuable in taking the conversation beyond the purely moralistic place that it seems currently struck, to help think about “structural” change in a way that uses the word as more than just a buzzword. Museums and Wealth should be the starting point for discussions about the problems of the museum going forward.

Jo van Gogh-Bonger: The Woman Who Made Vincent Famous By Hans Luijten


Hans Luijten, Jo van Gogh-Bogner: The Woman who Made Vincent Famous (2022). Courtesy of Bloomsbury Visual Arts.

You know that old saying, behind every great man is a great woman? This incredibly granular account of the life of Jo van Gogh-Bonger finally gives her the credit she deserves for tirelessly promoting the work of her brother-in-law Vincent van Gogh, helping transform him from a misunderstood failure into perhaps the world’s most famous artist. That she took on this lifelong task as a tribute to her late husband and great love, Theo—and succeeded as a woman working in a previously unfamiliar field—makes the story all the more inspiring.

Nonconformers: A New History of Self-Taught Artists By Lisa Slominski

new books about art

Lisa Slominski, Nonconformers: A New History of Self-Taught Artists (2022). Courtesy of Yale University Press.

What is an “outsider artist” anyway? According to author Lisa Slominski, it is a designation that encompasses a wide swath of individuals: people with disabilities, people of color, and women artists—all of whom have come up against the gatekeepers of cultural relevancy at some time or another. In so many cases, that has proved useful in the long run, as so-called “outsider” or “self-taught” artists achieve international recognition, helping to shape the trajectory of contemporary art.

How to Live with Objects: A Guide to More Meaningful Interiors By Monica Khemsurov

new books about art

Monica Khemsurov & Jill Singer, How To Live With Objects (2022). Courtesy of Clarkson Potter Publishers.

After the Marie Kondo-inspired craze for purging unnecessary objects, this book is a welcome antidote to the idea that accumulating and appreciating stuff is bad. The cofounders of the online magazine Sight Unseen have created what Vanity Fair calls “the bible of modern home decor and style.” Amen!

A Few Collectors By Pierre Le-Tan

new books about art

Pierre Le Tan, A Few Collectors (2022). Courtesy of New Vessel Press.

This delightful illustrated book by the late New Yorker illustrator Pierre Le-Tan, translated into English for the first time, is a love letter to both the joys and the eccentricities of collecting. In each chapter, he paints a picture of a different collection he has personally encountered, from that of former Louvre Museum director Pierre Rosenberg to actor Peter Hinwood, of The Rocky Horror Picture Show fame. There’s great art, creepy dolls, and even a collection of crumpled pieces of paper.

Art in the After-Culture: Capitalist Crisis and Cultural Strategy By Ben Davis

new books about art

Ben Davis, Art in the After-Culture: Capitalist Crisis and Cultural Strategy (2022). Courtesy of Haymarket Books.

Look, we’re biased. But don’t take our word for it: This collection of essays about the radical changes rocking the art world by Artnet News’s own Ben Davis was a pick for 2022 Book of the Year by Lisa Hilton in the Times Literary Supplement and Holland Cotter in the New York Times . (If you can’t wait, Davis also did an episode about the book’s take on art and A.I., months before the subject took over the news, that you can listen to now!)

From the Sculptor’s Studio: Conversations with 20 Seminal Artists By Ina Cole

Ina Cole, <i>From the Sculptor's Studio</i> (2021). Courtesy of Laurence King.

Ina Cole, From the Sculptor’s Studio (2021). Courtesy of Laurence King.

Since the days of monuments and statues, the art of making sculpture has changed beyond recognition and its boundaries are still to this day being challenged and reinvented. In a new collection of interviews, 20 living sculptors, including Anthony Caro, Phyllida Barlow, Richard Long, Anish Kapoor, and Antony Gormley—each internationally renowned for leaving their own indelible mark on sculpture—give fresh insight into their practices and how they have come to define the art form.

Kiki Man Ray By Mark Braude

new books about art

Mark Braude, Kiki Man Ray: Art, Love, and Rivalry in 1920s Paris (2022). Courtesy of W.W. Norton.

The incredible life story of Kiki de Montparnasse is so unlikely, it almost reads like fiction. Born Alice Prin, the determined Kiki was just a teenager when she realized posing for artists could be her avenue out of poverty. A muse to many—including her longtime romantic partner, the photographer Man Ray, with whom she collaborated on such groundbreaking images as Le Violon d’Ingres and Noire et blanche —Kiki became the heart and soul of the bohemian artist community of Left Bank Paris. Not only was she an artist model, she was a beloved singer, a successful memoirist, and an artist in her own right. The time is certainly ripe to revisit her legacy and the lasting influence she had on one of the most important art scenes of the 20th century, and to reconsider our preconceptions about artists and their muses.

Censored Art Today By Gareth Harris

new books about art

Gareth Harris, Censored Art Today (2022). Courtesy of Lund Humphries.

The longstanding debate around censorship in art has only been getting more fiery in recent years, as some decry “cancel culture” while others seek to redress offensive tropes or other inequities. In this new survey, Gareth Harris shows us how the dispute plays out in a wide range of contexts, from the toppling of old monuments in some places to government surveillance and the suppression of minority voices in others.

Art Is Life:  Icons and Iconoclasts, Visionaries and Vigilantes, and Flashes of Hope in the Night By Jerry Saltz

new books about art

Jerry Saltz, Art Is Life: Icons & Iconoclasts, Visionaries & Vigilantes, & Flashes of Hope in the Night (2022). Courtesy of Riverhead Books.

Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Jerry Saltz’s new book is a compendium of some of his best interviews, reviews, and musings on the art world; at its best, worst, and everything in between, as this book proves, for Saltz, art truly is life.

Great Women Painters By Linda Nochlin

new books about art

Linda Nochlin, Great Women Painters (2022). Courtesy of Phaidon.

Linda Nochlin’s 1971 essay “What Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” has been a much cited touchstone for every conversation about redressing the canon’s gender imbalance since. As this new book shows, with its fresh look at the past, the question no longer really stands. Covering over 300 artists, from major Renaissance names that have only recently been resuscitated from the history books to breakout stars of the ultra contemporary scene, and many more Impressionists and modernists in between, the survey showcases a new history of art that finally puts to bed any lingering doubts about the pivotal role of women painters.

Letters to Gwen John By Cecilia Paul


In 2019, British painter Celia Paul began writing letters addressed to the late artist Gwen John, who lived from 1876 to 1939, but saw her own artistic accomplishments overlooked compared to those of her brother, Augustus John, and her lover, Auguste Rodin. Paul has long been inspired by John, and compares their shared passion for art and creative struggles in this intimate epistolary work.

How to Build Stonehenge By Mike Pitts

Mike Pitts, <i>How to Build Stonehenge</i> (2022). Courtesy of Thames and Hudson.

Mike Pitts, How to Build Stonehenge (2022). Courtesy of Thames and Hudson.

In his heavily researched book, Mike Pitts examines the technical evidence to determine how the ancients would have built Stonehenge, the mysteries of which have fascinated people for generations. His take? Pitts believes the bluestones would have been transported hundreds of miles overland from Wales via wooden sledges on wooden trackways, guided with poles. The larger sarsen slabs came from only 17 miles away, but raising the stones into three-part trilithons probably required using logs to lever them into position.

Art Hiding in Paris: An Illustrated Guide to the Secret Masterpieces of the City of Light By Lori Zimmer

new books about art

Lori Zimmer, Art Hiding in Paris: An Illustrated Guide to the Secret Masterpieces of the City of Light (2022), Courtesy of Running Press.

In 2020, writer Lori Zimmer and illustrator Maria Krasinski teamed up to produce a charming volume celebrating overlooked art in New York City’s public places. Their follow-up effort crosses the Atlantic to Paris to uncover works by the likes of Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and Jean-Michel Othoniel in what amounts to a delightful mashup of travel guide and art history.

Wild: The Life of Peter Beard: Photographer, Adventurer, Lover By Graham Boynton

Graham Boynton, Wild: The Life of Peter Beard (2022). Courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

Graham Boynton, Wild: The Life of Peter Beard (2022). Courtesy of St. Martin’s Press.

In our post #MeToo world, Peter Beard doesn’t exactly come across like the charming rapscallion author Graham Boynton clearly thinks he is. (In the most damning anecdote, Beard punches his wife Cheryl Tiegs in the stomach, causing a miscarriage.) But the photographer, who spent much of his life documenting African wildlife, was clearly a most singular individual, carving out a unique place in the art world, leaving behind a massive and ambitious body of work despite his libertine lifestyle. Esteemed by collectors without, believe it or not, a single museum show to his name, Beard never compromised his creative vision, pouring his literal blood, sweat, and tears into collaged works that pushed the boundaries of photography.

Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas By Jennifer Raff

new books about art

Jennifer Raff, Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas (2022). Courtesy of Twelve Books.

Archaeology and genetics come together in this book exploring the earliest human history in the Americas. Jennifer Raff makes a compelling case once and for all to disband with the once iron-clad Clovis first theory that the first humans entered the continent at the end of the last ice age some 13,000 years ago, across the Bering Strait land bridge. Instead, the archaeological—and genetic—evidence points to a much earlier date, suggesting that the first Americans had made their way down the coastal “Kelp Highway” as early as 22,000 years ago. Highlights include a transporting scene in which Raff describes her work extracting DNA from old bones at a clean lab at the University of Kansas.

The Long Corner By Alexander Maksik

<em>The Long Corner</em> by Alexander Maksik. Courtesy of Europa Editions.

The Long Corner by Alexander Maksik. Courtesy of Europa Editions.

When art-critic-turned-marketing-flack Solomon Fields gets invited to visit a paradisal artist colony and write about what its founder, Sebastian Light, is building there, it seems like the perfect escape from personal tragedy. But it quickly becomes clear that something is not quite right in the Coded Garden, culminating in the resident artists’ eagerly awaited biennial and its unexpected aftermath. The novel is at turns comical, insightful, and unsettling, skewering the snobbery and cultishness of the art world while reconsidering the value of so-called creative genius—and the power of those who claim to foster it.

Blue Woman By Jonathan Page

<em>Blue Woman</em> by Jonathan Page. Courtesy of Weatherglass Books.

Blue Woman by Jonathan Page. Courtesy of Weatherglass Books.

This beautiful novel brings to life the fictional 20th-century British artist Rose Hartwood. She overcomes having a child out of wedlock and giving him up for adoption, and narrowly survives not one but two World War II bombing raids to achieve renown for her paintings. The story unfolds too quickly, years flying by as Rose grows old and is forced to leave her legacy to the next generation.

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Sensitive to Art & its Discontents

The Best Art Books of 2022

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From a queer Chicanx writer’s debut collection of personal essays to timeless catalogues and a survey of the history of the artist’s studio, here are 20 art books that informed and broadened our worldviews in 2022. Also, note Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò’s Elite Capture , which is not strictly an art book but certainly a must-read for anyone in the art field.

1. Brown Neon by Raquel Gutiérrez (Coffee House Press)

new books about art

Raquel Gutiérrez has written a wonderful collection of essays that foreground her (she also uses they) queer Chicanx art-loving self in a way that really shines. She writes about the US/Mexico border without falling into stereotypes, digs deep to get at the contradictions around the Boyle Heights gentrification controversies, and travels to Marfa to chart the changing face of a region that is slowly becoming part of a global art ecosystem. Her prose is fresh, it feels personal, and it is a welcome remedy to all the straight dude art lit that is full of declarative nonsense and emphasizes the market. Gutiérrez takes you along on her journey and I’m certainly glad she does. And if you’re wondering about the title, she has a beautiful way of explaining it: “I am a brown neon sign. Aimless, aging homosexual hipster with attachment issues.” At another point, in her “A Butch in the Desert” essay, she asks, “What is a selfie to a digital immigrant?” Her multifaceted mindscape comes through on every page. Added bonus: if you buy the audiobook you’ll have the pleasure of listening to the author reading her own words. — Hrag Vartanian

2. Joe Brainard: The Art of the Personal by John Yau (Rizzoli)

new books about art

It’s perfect timing for a big, beautiful collection of Joe Brainard’s art, from his earliest work done as a teenager in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to a full range of drawings, paintings, and mixed-media pieces, including rarely seen collaborations and collages. The deeply understanding text by poet and art critic John Yau situates Brainard and his work as existing in a slightly “other” space: While highly cultural and definitively avant-garde, Brainard did not quite find his home with the larger commodified art world. Instead, even as he dealt with popular culture and commodities (the comic strip character Nancy seemed a particularly favored “muse”), his works come off more as gifts, with all the generosity, playfulness, and delight that they involve. But these “gifts” also resist the status quo; they are astute subversions of capitalism, consumerism, and heteronormativity. His pansy pieces riposte the machismo of the art world at that time, and his self-portraits are quieter, self-reflective, and almost melancholy sketches around queerness. His dada-inflected found-object cigarette butt pieces either anticipate or deflate Conceptual and/or Pop Art. The variations in scale, mediums, and purpose add a refreshing diversity and depth to this collection, and stay true to Brainard’s own embrace of the so-called “minor genres.” But while his works are often small in scale, their impact and resonance are not. As Yau writes, “Brainard’s irreverence is suffused with tenderness and warmth, rather than superiority and nastiness. It is this unlikely synthesis of impudence and sympathy that I think has confused some people as to Brainard’s greatness.” In what seems a cold, hard, and transactional world, we may at last need his work enough to appreciate it fully. — Marcella Durand

3. Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics (and Everything Else) by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò (Haymarket Books)

new books about art

Not strictly an art book, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò’s Elite Capture is a must-read for anyone interested in the growing forces of conservatism in the art community as “elites” — often using the cover of identity politics and without direct responsibility to the larger groups they represent, and often without their knowledge or consent — “steer resources and institutions that could serve the many towards their own narrower interests and aims.” This is a question of relationships and is not about essentializing people’s identities. We see this again and again in the art community when individual artists or scholars are held up as representatives or spokespeople for a community they only superficially represent. — HV

4. Henry Taylor: B Side edited by Bennett Simpson (DelMonico Books/Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles)

new books about art

Henry Taylor’s portraits of friends and public figures — Miles Davis, Eldridge Cleaver, and Haile Selassie, as well as the children and partners of fellow artists — are slyly political paintings that pointedly voice the dilemma of being Black in the United States. This volume accompanies a current retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles that features not only an extensive array of paintings but also a rich selection of rarely seen drawings, installations, and sculptures. “No Chicken Please, ‘We’re Born Again Vegan’” (2011–13) collages a photo of Colonel Sanders toting his famous bucket in between a Black man and woman in what appears to be a parking lot. (A “Reserved Parking” sign indicates “Violators will be towed away.”) Situated on a red carpet, Sanders occupies the foreground with photorealistic clarity; the faces of the other two figures are rendered with Taylor’s typical indefiniteness, although they too wear white. We are asked to consider the brand icon’s omnipresent familiarity when set against the relative anonymity and indifference of the Black passersby. Ever alert to social contradictions, embedded histories, and the gap between public propaganda and private experience, Taylor often graces his subjects with a deliberate equanimity, suggesting only by inference a narrative of quiet, enduring resistance. Among the assembled essays is an especially thoughtful piece by painter Charles Gaines. By way of understanding the warm, familial atmosphere that infuses so many of Taylor’s subjects, Gaines declares that “painting portraits allows him to be with people, he wants to know them, to help them, to be around them.” — Albert Mobilio

5. Dorothea Tanning: Doesn’t the Paint Say It All by Dorothea Tanning, introduction by Pamela S. Johnson, essays by Victoria Carruthers, Mary Ann Caws, and Kate Conley (Kasmin Gallery)

new books about art

For an artist who died at the age of 101, the span between her first public appearance and her last works might be large. This catalogue from a show held at New York City’s Kasmin Gallery this past spring presents Dorothea Tanning’s last paintings — some of them dated nearly four decades after her first exhibition in 1943. Generally regarded as a Surrealist by dint of her uncanny, otherworldly canvases, as well as by association — she was married to Max Ernst — Tanning shows another side of her visual imagination in these works. Instead of the familiar scenes of oneiric domesticity, there are dark, turbulent swirls of color in which human forms emerge only as ghostly, half-seen shapes. Indeed, the amorphous and agitated “Maverick” (1969) seems to owe more to Helen Frankenthaler’s soak-stain technique than to any conventional Surrealist’s cleanly delineated imaging of the unconscious. This chaos, perhaps, is the authentic stuff of dreams. Of particular note is the included essay, titled “To Paint,” that has been excerpted from Tanning’s 1986 memoir, Birthday . In this almost minute-by-minute account of picture making — “The beleaguered canvas is on the floor. Colors are merging. Cobalt and Chrome bridge a gap with their knowing nuances” — Tanning dramatizes aesthetic choices as well as the sheer physicality of her process. Her goal, she tells us, is to trap the viewer “in a net from which the only escape is by going through the whole picture until the exit is found.” Whether or not an actual escape from these lush, vertiginous domains exists remains an open question. — AM

6. Diane Arbus Documents by Diane Arbus, introduction by Lucas Zwirner and Jeffrey Fraenkel, edited by Max Rosenberg (David Zwirner Books)

new books about art

Diane Arbus, perhaps the most famous American photographer of the 20th century, has always generated strong reactions. At nearly 500 pages this voluminous compendium presents articles, essays, and reviews from 1967 to 2017 and includes pieces by writers and critics including Hilton Kramer, Robert Hughes, Susan Sontag, Hilton Als, Janet Malcolm, Lynne Tillman, Germaine Greer, Vince Aletti, Vicki Goldberg, and Holland Carter. Culled from the pages of the New York Times , the New York Review of Books , the New Yorker , October , the Guardian , Time magazine, and various other publications, the assembled criticism testifies to both the impact and controversy surrounding her photographs, particularly questions about her relationship to and possible exploitation of subjects. The editors’ decision to reproduce the actual pages from these sources enhances the reader’s sense of temporal particularity — an early profile by Kramer for the New York Times Magazine is accompanied by advertisements for grandfather clocks and “simulated” fur coats. A more recent essay by Hilton Als is supplemented by a New York Review reader’s complaint about his use of the word “freaks,” as well as Als’s tart one-sentence reply, “If you say so.” Documents offers the opportunity to experience the turbulent evolution of a reputation that even today remains contested. — AM

7. Master of the Two Left Feet: Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered by Richard Meyer (MIT Press)

new books about art

The density of detail and meticulous brushwork that mark Morris Hirshfield’s fanciful depictions of women, landscapes, and animals lend these paintings an almost vibratory power. The title, Master of the Two Left Feet , reclaims an art magazine’s 1943 jeer as an honorific. Meyer sets out to establish Hirshfield as more than a naïf whose brief mid-century renown was a fluke; he devotes several pages to tracing possible Old Master antecedents for the young woman’s face in “Beach Girl” (1937–39). It’s no accident that the painter’s female portraits prioritize the dramatic design of their dresses over realistic bodily proportions — like many Jewish immigrants, he had spent decades cutting patterns for the garment trade. With short arms that jut from overbroad torsos and cartoonish hands, these figures are closer kin to Surrealist paintings by, say, Leonora Carrington than to conventional midcentury portraiture. No wonder Hirshfield’s contemporary critics derided his peculiar yet enchanting anatomies. His landscapes, too, possess an alien yet profoundly involving quality. Careful inspection of “Waterfall” (1940) reveals its apparent symmetry to be thwarted by subtle variations in texture and linework. A similar seduction takes place when viewing “Lion” (1939): the precise and intricate weave that forms the mane vies for our attention with the beast’s unwavering, quite human gaze. A master of deceptive, alluring tension, Hirshfield always entices and rewards scrupulous study. — AM

8. William Eggleston: Chromes edited by Thomas Weski, Winston Eggleston, and William Eggleston III (Steidl Verlag)

new books about art

Selected from 5,000 Kodachromes and Ektachromes taken from 1969 to 1974 in the photographer’s hometown of Memphis, these three sizable volumes offer an immersive opportunity to track William Eggleston’s development as he experimented with color and composition. No surprise that the set, when published in 2011, quickly sold out; it’s an essential compendium of this master’s formative work. Here are the blade-sharp depictions of mundane scenes and events, the “democratic camera” in full evidence — cars in a rainswept parking lot, boxes of food in a refrigerator freezer, bubble-gum machines on a street corner, a battered mailbox, a stop sign (shot from behind), curlers being warmed on the back of a toilet, a rusted child’s wagon, and empty motor oil cans discarded in mud. Especially compelling are those Kodachrome variants of his iconic photos: two shots of bare light bulbs and their wiring anticipate “The Red Ceiling,” the famous result of the dye-transfer printing process that would produce the lushly saturated colors so identifiably his. While hundreds of photos have been included, seldom does the viewer’s excitement wane. Eggleston is that rare artist who invents the visual world anew with nearly every image. — AM

9. Amoako Boafo , forward by Camille Weiner, contributions by Osei Bonsu, Mutombo Da Poet, Aja Monet, Rachel Cargle, and Amoako Boafo (Roberts Projects)

new books about art

Amoako Boafo’s subjects regard the viewer with an unnerving directness that resolves gradually into unexpected intimacy. The intensity of the connection is enhanced by the artist’s use of his fingers to apply paint to the faces. The thick and plentiful furrows almost dance across checks, foreheads, and chins, registering palpable evidence of Boafo’s physical engagement with both the materials and the person. Backgrounds and clothing are rendered with contrastingly flat brushwork in pale colors that allow the subjects to emerge with striking dynamism. An essay by Rachel Cargle provides a deft psychological reading of these animate faces in which she describes the subject’s skin in “Monstera Leaf Sleeves” (2021) as “a labyrinth of emotion.” Born in Accra, the capital of Ghana, in 1984, Boafo studied in Vienna where, he says in an interview with curator Paul Schimmel, “I had to struggle there, and I managed to come out of the struggle. … Every image that I painted was like, this is it!” If Boafo cites Egon Schiele’s portraits as strong influences on his technique, it’s clear that he also imbibed the Viennese artist’s abiding passion and sense of mastery. Boafo charges these sitters with an undeniable presence so we can readily believe we are there in the room where the portrait is taking shape. — AM

10. Visualizing Genocide: Indigenous Interventions in Art, Archives, and Museums edited by Yve Chavez and Nancy Marie Mithlo (University of Arizona Press)

new books about art

The “G” word is often omitted in mainstream conversations about Native American and Indigenous art. Yet, how Native artists grapple with this tragic legacy is one of the important and foundational aspects of contemporary art in the United States and elsewhere. The art of Native American and Indigenous artists challenges, among other things, the way history is taught and understood. From myths of extinction to contemporary difficulties to Native sovereignty, contemporary artists are addressing all these issues in fascinating ways. This book charts some of the recent projects that continue to supplement (or change, when they are allowed the opportunity) our contemporary art history in new and interesting ways. While the book is written in an academic manner, it is full of information that will give you a bigger picture of the challenges that still remain in the field. — HV

11. Mark Rothko by Christopher Rothko, Kate Rothko Prizel, with essays by Hiroshi Sugimoto and Alexander Nemerov (Rizzoli)

new books about art

Most of us are familiar with the glowing clouds of color that define Mark Rothko’s career, but this comprehensive volume delves into the decades before those characteristic images took shape. A generous sample of figurative work from the mid-1920s through the early 1940s reveals the artist’s moody urban and landscape scenes (“Subway,” 1935; “Movie Palace,” 1934–35; “Wharf,” 1934; and “Street Scene,” 1934) that suggest a strong connection to peers such as Edward Hopper and George Tooker. In the mid-’40s, Rothko gradually moved toward abstraction and, it would seem, took cues from Paul Klee and Arshile Gorky to devise “ twittering machine ”-like images that crowd his canvases with angular activity. This decided nod toward Surrealism, evident in “Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea” (1944), gives little hint of the artist’s future directions. Only after three or four years do we see these well-defined shapes dissolve into the familiar swaths of vibratory color. Rothko’s compositional explorations didn’t cease when he hit upon his signature mode — the colors, push-and-pull relationships, and depth and texture of their application — and all these elements preoccupied him for subsequent decades. In the volume’s self-reflective essay by kindred spirit Hiroshi Sugimoto, the photographer notes the quiet luminosity of Rothko’s paintings: “In the present day, the romanticism of life has been lost. Light, however, is the one thing that has always streamed down upon us in an unbroken continuum. Untainted by the degenerative touch of time, light streams down upon us today just as it did in ancient times.” — AM

12. Impractical Spaces: Houston by Pete Gershon (Impractical Spaces)

new books about art

Artist-run venues are born out of a need for space, both physical and psychological; they are independent of the market-based demands of the gallery or museum and they have been the place for American artists to build creative concepts and collaborations for more than 70 years, but these spaces are rarely documented. “Unless someone is a photographer or pack rat, things grow or fizzle out and it’s not history for 10 or 20 years. Those are the pitfalls,” author Pete Gershon told Hyperallergic in November. Impractical Spaces: Houston resurrects the immense risks and triumphs of 55 active and defunct Houston venues from firsthand testimonials. One organization, Consolidated Arts Warehouse, hosted important bands such as the Dead Kennedys and the Natives, but one of the founders took off with all the money; in another chapter, artists Jack and Stephanie Stenner depleted their savings and the $35,000 borrowed from Stephanie’s mother to successfully develop studio and exhibition spaces from the Purse Building that had no electricity or plumbing. Impractical Spaces: Houston saves stories from obscurity and records the diverse capacities of artists to build worlds. It also proposes possible blueprints for creatives to solve the gaps in municipal and institutional initiatives. — Kealey Boyd 

13. Red List: MI5 and British Intellectuals in the 20th Century by David Caute (Verso)

new books about art

Earlier this month, a BBC article positioned the UK’s   rail worker strikes as an inconvenience on holiday travelers, and even included testimony from a scab whose plans would be  unaffected . This subtle anti-organizing tactic, from one of the largest state-affiliated media companies, reflects the deep-seated relationship between the British state and mainstream culture. Now more than ever,  David Caute’s  Red List  stands as a testament to the artists who questioned dominant Cold War narratives and landed themselves in MI5’s crosshairs. Through recently declassified archives, Caute takes an inventory of painters, sculptors, actors, writers, and filmmakers who earned files for their perceived affiliations with leftist organizations — even when no such connections existed. Lesser-known artists like Clare Sheridan, who once fought off the advances of a pushy Mussolini, appear with revolutionaries like Paul Robeson and best-selling authors such as George Orwell, the latter of whom ended up  spying on activists  later in life. From MI5 propaganda conflating Jews with communists to BBC censorship of and racism against Black organizers, Caute’s historical analysis reveals that many government officials, often taking cues from former Nazis, had no idea what they were actually looking for. — BA

14. The Artist’s Studio: A Cultural History by James Hall (Thames & Hudson)

new books about art

There’s something special about artist studios that none of us can quite explain. In this book, James Hall does a deep dive into what a studio meant for medieval illuminators, as well as their role in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and even their slow morph into factory-like spaces. This is a good read with ample illustrations, and while I wish the focus wasn’t almost exclusively on Western art, it’s a welcome addition to cultural histories that tell the story of art in new and interesting ways. — HV

15. The Lost Architecture of Jean Welz by Peter Wyeth (DoppelHouse Press)

new books about art

It’s no question that we’re living through  woefully ugly times . The hyper-commodification of  Modernism , and an abundance of shoddy luxury, has led to reactionary fervor against all utilitarian housing. For late architect and painter Jean Welz, a well-designed structure need not eschew neoclassical forms; in fact, designs should reflect one’s aesthetic  and  political commitments. In  The Lost Architecture of Jean Welz , British filmmaker Peter Wyeth pieces together Welz’s life and oeuvre from his youth in Red Vienna, flight from fascism, and retirement in Johannesburg. Previously unpublished archival photos, interviews with family, and personal visits to the Welz houses still standing create a rich and rewarding meditation on Wyeth’s own research process. Often narrated in the first person, his prose conveys excitement and frustration with such an elusive character, connecting Welz to a house made for Dada founder Tristan Tzara and a Nazi-destroyed gravestone for Karl Marx’s daughter. Wyeth argues that Welz directly challenged Le Corbusier’s “Five Points of Architecture,” which perhaps explains his disappearance from the history books. As such, this narrative will resonate with anyone interested in the politics of architecture, or the pursuit of knowledge at large. — BA

16. Images of Class: Operaismo, Autonomia, and the Visual Arts (1962–1988) by Jacopo Galimberti (Verso)

new books about art

Italy is quickly  sliding into fascism  once again, emboldening far-right groups to  plot  attacks and  threaten  any critics voicing opposition. Jacopo Galimberti’s  Images of Class  therefore feels essential to this moment. Hundreds of rare photos and artworks from the midcentury  operaismo  and  autonomia  movements reveal that Socialism with Italian characteristics was alive and well in the postwar era. Looking beyond Gramscian notions of “cultural hegemony,” collectives like Archizoom and Gruppo Femminista Immagine produced rhetorical designs that blurred distinctions between image and text. Much of the agitprop presented here was widely disseminated across cities and provinces, so much so that the Italian state cracked down on anyone making art against the grain. Galimberti dutifully weaves a tapestry visualizing the two movements, from their early political cartoons to blueprints for social housing, while also critiquing the limits of their Eurocentrism. Through it all, this title illuminates how artists adeptly connected science and technology with class consciousness, drawing a through line to art workers’ organizing efforts today. — BA

17. 100 Treasures / 100 Emotions: The Macquarie University History Museum edited by Martin Bommas (Giles)

new books about art

“[T]ime is major ingredient that creates value and turns a thing into a historical object,” writes Martin Bommas in the introduction of 100 Treasures/100 Emotions , a survey of 100 out of some 18,000 objects in the collection of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. The collection spans five millennia and gathers objects from five continents; the prospect of lifting 100 out of such a vast pool is a daunting and impressive experiment in its own right. But the book goes a step further in connecting object histories to emotional reality, subtitling each one-page profile of an object from the collection with an associated emotion — for example, “care” as represented by a Greco-Roman hand cartonnage (332 BCE–396 CE), a kind of linen preparation around a mummified body, found strewn across a burial pit at El-Hawawish, Egypt. Or “anticipation,” accompanying a chronicle of stoneware “blop top bottles” (1830s–70s), part of the Antipodean bottle-making history of Kellyville, New South Wales. The author not only contextualizes the object in its time and making, but also highlights the anticipation with which a user might have approached its contents after a long day’s work. This meditation on a large collection is both focused and expansive, reminding us that human society and all its production function fundamentally in the service of human emotion. The book covers even the most complicated of emotions faced at a museum: those around provenance and stolen artifacts. Object 28 — “intrigue” — is a fourth-century thymiaterion from southern Italy, determined to have been a looted object laundered by Giacomo Medici, a central figure in the trafficking of illicit antiquities out of Italy. In February of 2020, the museum returned the thymiaterion to the Italian government, and now displays a bright red 3D-printed facsimile in its place. It stands out as an object that teaches something about intrigue, yes, but also integrity. — Sarah Rose Sharp

18. Lastgaspism: Art and Survival in the Age of Pandemic edited by Anthony Romero, Daniel Tucker, and Dan S. Wang (Soberscove Press)

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Published in 2022 amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and through a lens of art and activism, Lastgaspism “considers the pandemic as an event that has reframed and catalyzed numerous other crises and numerous resolutions.” Each contributor, whether through an interview, project description, visual essay, breathing exercise, or other offering, attempts to deconstruct the harms wrought by structural and systemic racism, and our participation in it. In “Breaking Down to Build Up: A Cultural Emergency Response,” artist Erin Genia (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota) shows that the answers to our current crises lie in redress and repair, rather than current attempts rooted in destructive, exploitative cultural practices; Anthony Romero’s interview with Design Studio for Social Intervention highlights the organization’s work in disarming social problems; and scholar Kimberly Bain’s “Aftermath” recounts the Ferguson, Missouri, uprising and what followed, stating that “an end to all this won’t come until we end all this.” These entries and more address feminism, essential workers, mutual aid, history, death, and grief as measures of time, and, above all, the breath in “personal expressions and cultural practices,” as Dan S. Wang considers. The ideas presented in Daniel Tucker’s “Care in Crisis” form the core of this collection, naming care as essential for comprehending and creating what needs to happen now, and next. — Nancy Zastudil

19. Catholica: The Visual Culture of Catholicism by Suzanna Ivanic (Thames & Hudson)

new books about art

It can be hard to decipher the Old Masters’ Christian symbols — what’s been missing for a long time is a succinct primer with good design. Scholar Suzanna Ivanic’s book fills this void. Whereas older texts, such as George Ferguson’s  Signs and Symbols in Christian Art (1954), are organized like dictionaries, Catholica moves through a series of complex diagrams of artworks, harnessing the book cutting-edge design. Readers learn how to decode various episodes from the Life of Christ like the Marriage of Cana or the Visitation, which form the narrative template for much early modern art. Get the inside scoop on the veiled symbols in famous works, including Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” (1495–98), Hans Memling’s “The Last Judgement” (1467–73), or Robert Campin’s “Mérode Altarpiece” (1427–32). Learn to distinguish between the symbols of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. Throughout the text, this emphasis on diagrams enables readers to swiftly absorb this complex and intimidating material. The short accompanying chapters provide a solid introduction to the various ways that Christian, and specifically Catholic, ideas are intertwined with much European art history and material culture. Whereas previous publications on this subject could overwhelm readers with too much detail, Ivanic keeps it short and sweet. After exploring this book’s thorough yet accessible analysis, readers will be empowered to recognize saints and episodes from the Bible without needing to rely on the wall text. — Daniel Larkin

20. Treasures of Ukraine: A Nation’s Cultural Heritage , foreword by Andrey Kurkov (Thames & Hudson)

new books about art

Ukraine has been in the news all year, so I suggest you brush up on your Ukrainian art history a little (and decolonize your mind from the Russia-centric art history that we’ve all been taught for the last century). From prehistory through the Duchy of Lithuania and the extensive religious art of Ukraine, this well-designed volume (except for the bizarrely placed page numbers) continues its tale through Modernism and into contemporary art. Overall, you might be surprised at the breadth of art that constitutes the Ukrainian traditions and in the process learn that Ukrainian art during the 1920s found its own footing through a Soviet-sponsored “indigenization” program. A good read.— HV

Extinction Rebellion Storms Rijksmuseum for Rembrandt Action

Extinction Rebellion Storms Rijksmuseum for Rembrandt Action

Changing tactics, the climate activists avoided gluing themselves to the masterpiece or smearing it with food products.

New Art Books You Should Know, From Hilma af Klint to the Black Panther Party

New Art Books You Should Know, From Hilma af Klint to the Black Panther Party

Twelve titles on our reading list inquire about the practice of mudlarking, “cyberfeminism,” Lenape artists in New York City, and witchcraft in the age of technology.

Catch Autumn Knight’s Nothing #26: The Potential of Nothing is Everything at the Wallach Art Gallery

Catch Autumn Knight’s Nothing #26: The Potential of Nothing is Everything at the Wallach Art Gallery

This experimental and multidisciplinary solo exhibition in New York City exploring “the sweetness of doing nothing” closes on March 12.

An Artist Takes a Peek Into the History of Rural Storekeeping

An Artist Takes a Peek Into the History of Rural Storekeeping

Reza Safavi’s digital reinterpretation of Thomas Grocery and Pump explores modern technology and rural storytelling.

How Art Helps Politicians Soften Their Image

How Art Helps Politicians Soften Their Image

Hande Sever’s latest installation explores how leaders in the US and Turkey have used visual art and film to project, modify, and erase history.

The Africa Center Presents States of Becoming

The Africa Center Presents States of Becoming

Seventeen contemporary artists of the African Diaspora explore how movement and migration shape their artistic practices and lives. On view in NYC.

How North Africans Negotiated Blackness at the Dakar 1966 First Black Arts Festival

How North Africans Negotiated Blackness at the Dakar 1966 First Black Arts Festival

Hundreds of artists, writers, and intellectuals convened at the All African People’s Conference in apparent harmony, but it was also a stage for contradictions and paradoxes to be unpacked.

Mysterious 30-Foot-Long Tunnel Found Inside Giza Pyramid

Mysterious 30-Foot-Long Tunnel Found Inside Giza Pyramid

Scholars don’t know exactly how the 4,500 year-old-pyramid was built, but the new finding could offer valuable clues.

The Photography Show Presented by AIPAD Arrives in New York

The Photography Show Presented by AIPAD Arrives in New York

The 42nd edition of the fair showcases contemporary, modern, and 19th century images from 44 photography galleries. Open March 31 through April 2.

Man Finds Well-Endowed Celtic Bronze Figurine

Man Finds Well-Endowed Celtic Bronze Figurine

The tiny artifact, which was discovered by a metal detectorist, is now headed to auction in the UK.

Art Orgs Mobilize Support After Turkey-Syria Earthquakes

Art Orgs Mobilize Support After Turkey-Syria Earthquakes

Artists and cultural organizations have been contributing to the post-disaster relief efforts despite their own needs for support.

Picker Art Gallery Presents the Works of William Earle Williams and Nona Faustine

Picker Art Gallery Presents the Works of William Earle Williams and Nona Faustine

Two solo photography exhibitions at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, expose the obscured, silenced, and unacknowledged histories of the slave trade.

Roe v. Wade Case Documents Fetch Over $600K at Auction

Roe v. Wade Case Documents Fetch Over $600K at Auction

The archive, belonging to lawyer Linda Coffee, contains nearly 150 documents and letters related to the historic case.

At the Outsider Art Fair, Passion Trumps Prestige

At the Outsider Art Fair, Passion Trumps Prestige

The fair fosters a welcoming environment for all those with an appreciation for art, regardless of background or technical know-how.

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new books about art

Graphic featuring an array of book covers along with the phrase 'BEST OF 2021.'

The Best Art Books of 2021

With travel restrictions still in place, many looked to art books this year when they couldn’t visit the museums and galleries they loved most. Below is a look back at some of the year’s best books, as picked by the editors of ARTnews and Art in America , from elegant catalogues that paired nicely with the year’s finest shows to forward-thinking tomes of criticism that drew out new strands of art history.

Afro-Atlantic Histories edited by Adriano Pedrosa and Tomás Toledo (DelMonico Books and Museu de Arte de São Paulo with D.A.P.)

new books about art

For the past several years, the Museu de arte de São Paulo has been mounting game-changing, expansive surveys under the name “Histórias,” with topics including Brazil, dance, women and feminism, and more. The most acclaimed one, 2018’s “Afro-Atlantic Histories,” began its U.S. tour this year at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, before heading to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Accompany this slimmed-down, more focused version of the show is this new volume: “a hybrid of sorts—it cannot be properly called an exhibition catalogue,” according to editors Adriano Pedrosa and Tomás Toledo. The almost-400-page tome presents beautiful images of the works that were in the original exhibition, along with new ones shown in the U.S. tour, as well as a bevy of new texts, including ones by Deborah Willis, Kanitra Fletcher, and Vivian A. Crockett. An Afro-Brazilian woman living in the U.S., Crockett offers these important words: “If contemporary discourses in the United States privilege the ethos of refusal, Afro-Atlantic Histories takes the opposite approach: providing so much visual evidence of these legacies of violence that their impact cannot be refuted. Art-historical mea culpa , if you will.” — Maximilíano Durón

Godzilla: Asian American Arts Network 1990–2001 edited by Howie Chen (Primary Information)

new books about art

During the 1990s, the Asian American group Godzilla grew from a small New York contingent to some 2,000 participants nationwide. This volume, edited by independent curator and Art in America columnist Howie Chen, is the first anthology of writings to chronicle the collective’s art projects, curatorial activities, and critical discourse. Spurred by the activism of key members such as Ken Chu, Margo Machida, Byron Kim, Eugenie Tsai, Bing Lee, and Karin Higa, Godzilla addressed “institutional racism, Western imperialism, anti-Asian violence, the AIDS crisis, and representations of Asian sexuality and gender, among other issues.” Protests included conscience-raising campaigns against the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Chinese in America. —Richard Vine

Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror (Whitney Museum)

new books about art

The catalogue for this year’s deeply intriguing and interrelated two-part Jasper Johns survey at the Whitney Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of art is as probing and prismatic as the exhibition itself. Sequences of work assembled thematically in different locations create a dialogue from page to page, as when a section on “Dreams” at the Whitney is followed by “Nightmares” at the Philadelphia Museum. Commissioned writings by a wide variety of writers—R. H. Quaytman, Ralph Lemon, and Colm Tóibín, to name just a few—go beyond what’s shown at either institution. — Andy Battaglia

Marcel Duchamp (Hauser & Wirth)

new books about art

Fit snugly in an inviting orange slipcase, Marcel Duchamp dutifully reincarnates Robert Lebel’s 1959 monograph of an artist as enticing and enigmatic as any before or since. Written and designed after years of collaboration between the author and Duchamp himself, the book reproduced from Grove Press’s first English-language edition surveys the artist’s paintings and readymades as well as unclassifiable works like The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) , which gets an entire deep-dive chapter of its own. And then there’s a supplemental volume—assembled in part by Lebel’s son Jean-Jacques Lebel—that tells the story of how the book came together and how its reputation has evolved over time. — Andy Battaglia

Shigeko Kubota: Viva Video! (Kawade Shobo Shinsha Ltd.) and Shigeko Kubota: Liquid Reality (Museum of Modern Art)

new books about art

This year, the trailblazing video artist Shigeko Kubota finally got her due, with a survey at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and a retrospective traveling to three cities in Japan. The shows gifted us with not one but two new definitive volumes on the Japanese American artist (1937–2015), whose poetic video sculptures consider themes of nature, death, and her art historical heroes—among them Marcel Duchamp and her husband, Nam June Paik. Both books are chock full of archival materials, fascinating photos, and scholarly essays that illuminate an intriguing body of work that has spent far too many years in the shadows. —Emily Watlington

Latinx Photography in the United States: A Visual History by Elizabeth Ferrer (University of Washington Press)

new books about art

Curator Elizabeth Ferrer starts off this radical gathering of Latinx photography with a simple premise: “The impetus for this book is derived from a basic fact: by and large, Latinx photographers are excluded from the documented record of the history of American photography. And yet they have been highly active practitioners of the medium, nearly since its inception in 1839.” In 10 chapters, Ferrer presents a concise history of the ways in which Latinx artists have been quintessential to the development of the medium, starting with its roots going back to the 1840s, moving into the documentation of activist movements of the 1960s and ’70s, and offering specific focuses on “LA Chicanx,” “Puerto Rico, Connected and Apart,” and “Conceptual Statements.” — Maximilíano Durón

Deana Lawson edited by Peter Eleey and Eva Respini (Mack Books)

new books about art

Published to accompany photographer Deana Lawson’s largest museum survey to date, at the ICA Boston, this photobook features 15 years’ worth of work by the photographer, in which studio and documentary photography blend with intergenerational references to pop culture and contemporary life. Here, retro magazine editorials and family-photo-style pictures of Lawson’s own making converge. In Lawson’s staged scenes taking place in domestic interiors and occasionally outdoors, friends, relatives, and models—most of whom are Black—are seen at times in each other’s embrace or alone, staring vacantly at the camera. These images, which the late critic Greg Tate, one of the book’s essayists, once described as “convulsively charismatic,” offer mesmerizing portraits of Black subjectivity that are both stark and sensual. They allow us to peer into their sitters’ personal histories while also drawing on the broader histories of their social worlds. “Lawson’s pictures draw attention to what the camera cannot capture—and in turn, to the many aspects of Black life that exceed forms of representation,” former MoMA PS1 chief curator Peter Eleey writes. —Angelica Villa

Adam Pendleton: Who Is Queen? A Reader edited by Adam Pendleton and Alec Mapes-Frances (Museum of Modern Art)

new books about art

Adam Pendleton’s latest “reader” comprises an interdisciplinary selection of texts key to his current exhibition at MoMA, but Stuart Comer’s framing of the book as a “score” seems most apt. Fonts, textures, graphic elements, painted lines, and the visual fuzz of scanned documents form a rhythm across the pages while the texts invite a chorus of voices, from the demands of Occupy and Black Lives Matter protestors to the “call and response” form that late film scholar James Arthur Snead framed as being central to Black culture. Visual markings across some reproductions alternately invite and inhibit reading, suggesting a controlled glimpse into Pendleton’s library. Read this book, but also heed Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s poetic text: “close your eyes and listen.” —Mira Dayal

Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful edited by Seth Feman and Jonathan Fredrick Walz (Columbus Museum and Chrysler Museum of Art with Yale University Press)

new books about art

Riding a wave of Alma Thomas mania that kicked off when the Obamas hung a painting by her in the White House in 2015, two museums in the South—the Columbus Museum in Georgia and the Chrysler Museum in Virginia—mounted a full-dress survey for the artist, whose dazzling abstractions recreate cosmologies using what the artist referred to as “Alma’s Stripes.” The show’s magisterial catalogue is a rare volume that manages to complement its related exhibition nicely and also stand on its own. There’s been a lot of writing about Thomas in the past half-decade, some of it spurred on by an earlier Studio Museum in Harlem show in 2016, but this catalogue exposes new parts of Thomas’s oeuvre. Among its best offerings is an essay on Thomas’s carefully honed persona by curator Tiffany E. Barber, who writes, “The act of painting for Thomas was also an act of performance.” —Alex Greenberger

Locating Sol LeWitt edited by David S. Areford (Yale University Press)

new books about art

There are many ways to interpret Sol LeWitt’s famed rule-based wall drawings. As art historian David S. Areford explains in his introduction to this edited volume of essays, scholars and curators have positioned his work as both resolutely rational, anticipating the logic of computers, and essentially irrational, like a child’s babble. The texts within attempt not to sway opinion but to highlight a wider range of LeWitt’s processes. Anna Lovatt focuses on his “malfunctioning machines,” experiments that led to dead-ends or re-routings in his oeuvre. Erica DiBenedetto explores his site-specific wall drawings in a medieval tower in Spoleto, Italy, where he annotated “niches, mantlepieces, ceiling beams, lamps, electrical sockets, a fireplace.” The book offers an incisive look at a practice that is both “ironically excessive” and “absurdly rudimentary,” as James H. Miller writes—one that’s comprised of intersecting lines of thought, pointing in every direction. —Mira Dayal

Art & Trousers: Tradition and Modernity in Contemporary Asian Art by David Elliott (University of Chicago Press)

new books about art

Over the past 50 years, British-born David Elliott has been the head of four museums in Europe and Asia; director of biennials in Sydney, Kiev, Moscow, and Belgrade; and organizer of some of the era’s most revelatory regional-focus exhibitions. In this compendium mixing new and previously published essays, he weaves an account of his own nomadic career into a wide-ranging survey of contemporary Asian art, based on the playful premise that Asia’s 20th-century adoption of Western garb heralded the assimilation of modern social and aesthetic principles across the world’s largest and most culturally diverse continent. Examining both global art stars and lesser-known artists and movements, Elliott wrangles intensely (and sometimes humorously) with colonialism’s exploitive vs. liberatory dialectic. —Richard Vine

Joseph E. Yoakum: What I Saw edited by Mark Pascale, Esther Adler, and Edouard Kopp (Yale University Press)

new books about art

Self-taught artist Joseph Elmer Yoakum (1891–1972) was “discovered” by the mainstream art world in the last decade of his life, when he began hanging his drawings in the window of his storefront apartment in Chicago. Mostly stylized landscapes depicting places possibly visited in reality—he claimed to have traveled with a circus in his youth—or perhaps only in his imagination, their undulating forms and vigorous patterning offer a delirious take on the notion of the sublime in nature.Yoakum’s work was first championed by School of the Art Institute of Chicago professor Whitney Halstead and later by the Chicago Imagists, a group of artists that included Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Karl Wirsum, and Roger Brown. This elegant monograph, which includes an essay by Halstead, accompanies a traveling exhibition of Yoakum’s work currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art. —Anne Doran

The Mayor of Leipzig by Rachel Kushner (Karma Books)

new books about art

With her remarkable 2013 novel The Flamethrowers , whose protagonist is recent art school grad from Nevada newly arrived in 1970s SoHo, Rachel Kushner established herself as one of the very few writers capable of portraying the art world in fiction without falling back on satirical cliché. Her latest work of fiction, The Mayor of Leipzig , a very slim novella published as a very attractive hardcover by Karma Books, is once again set in the art world, this time following a present-day midcareer artist who has traveled to Germany to prepare for an upcoming museum show in Leipzig. There’s little in the way of plot, but plenty of hilarious, sharply observed vignettes about artists’ social and professional obligations. —Rachel Wetzler

African Artists from 1882 to Now (Phaidon)

new books about art

Among numerous misconceptions about African art is the idea that artists from the continent are “curiosities or latecomers,” as art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu writes in the introduction to African Artists from 1882 to Now . Proof abounds in the lavishly illustrated tome, which for the uninitiated can serve as a bracing intro to the past 130 years of African art. Famous figures like El Anatsui, John Akomfrah, and Chéri Samba come under consideration, but it is the lesser-known and under-recognized artists who shine—like Manuel Figueira, a Cape Verdean artist who paints abstractions based on his country’s landscapes, or Lerato Shadi, a South African based in Berlin who meditates on the Black female body in her performances. — Alex Greenberger

Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South by Winfred Rembert with Erin I. Kelly (Bloomsbury Publishing)

new books about art

In this fascinating remembrance of his life story and the art he has made, Winfred Rembert recalls his encounters with racism, the American prison system, and the innovative means by which he spun lived experiences into art by expressively painting them onto leather. In addition to being unusually clear-eyed, Rembert’s memoir is notable for its openness. “I feel like I am putting my audience in another world when I get them interested in Black life,” he writes. —Alex Greenberger

Meret Oppenheim: My Exhibition (Museum of Modern Art)

new books about art

The Berlin-born Surrealist Meret Oppenheim (1913–1985)—best known for her iconic furry teacup sculpture—is the currently subject of overdue traveling retrospective. Titled “Meret Oppenheim: My Exhibition,” it includes some 200 objects highlighting the wide-ranging output of the artist, who some have inaccurately labeled a one-hit wonder. Her wide-ranging oeuvre, which spans geometric abstract paintings to jewelry designs, is illustrated in this new catalogue. The standouts remain the Surrealist objects that showcase Oppenheim’s signature wit and humor, but essays by the show’s three curators also draw out other aspects of her work. —Emily Watlington

Alice Neel: People Come First edited by Kelly Baum and Randall Griffey (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

new books about art

After a 2020 filled with online viewing rooms, Alice Neel’s career-spanning show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a respite—something that definitely needed to be seen in person. It comprised more than 100 painted portraits, drawings, and watercolors featuring an astounding array of New Yorkers: immigrants, activists, celebrities, and expecting mothers in a style that melded abstraction and figuration. The exhibition catalogue is a vital supplement, containing essays on Neel’s aesthetics and her personal engagement with feminism and the civil and gay rights movements. Neel always focused on the people in her paintings; the show was faithful to the spirit of her work in this way. But this book is valuable in that it brings the artist forward, too.  —Tessa Solomon

Black Paper: Writing in a Dark Time by Teju Cole (University of Chicago Press)

new books about art

These are dark times, with an ongoing global pandemic, an urgent climate crisis, and escalating race-related violence. Aptly, Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole takes up the concept of darkness for his latest book of essays. Merging art criticism, travelogues, political discourse, and diaristic forms of writing, he foregrounds the diversity of Blackness and its shifting cultural meaning. In one essay, for example, he addresses the colonial history of Africa, which he refers to as the “Dark Continent,” and offers alternative narratives on Blackness. Other essays focus on art critic John Berger, photographer Lorna Simpson, painter Kerry James Marshall, and the 2018 film Black Panther . Perhaps most important, in this divisive year especially, is Cole’s attempt to find greater purpose and a sense of belonging. After all, as Cole writes, “Darkness is not empty.” —Francesca Aton

We Are Here: Visionaries of Color Transforming the Art World by Jasmin Hernandez (Abrams)

new books about art

This visually stunning coffee book is an important visual record of artists and curators of color who are making a profound impact on the art world. Written by Jasmin Hernandez, who started the closely followed art blog Gallery Gurls in 2012, We Are Here offers beautiful original photography that are accompanied with accessible Q&A-style interviews with the likes of Firelei Báez, Tourmaline, Derek Fordjour, Genevieve Gaignard, Renee Cox, Naima J. Keith, and Jasmine Wahi. For any person of color considering a career in the art world, the inspiring messages and wisdom on offer make this book a must-read. — Maximilíano Durón

Hello Future by Farah Al Qasimi (Capricious)

new books about art

It’s difficult to choose the most memorable image from  Hello Future, Farah Al Qasimi’s photobook exploring the intersection of gender, politics, and aesthetics in the Persian Gulf. The Emirati artist has a keen eye for the glorious riots of pigments, pattern, and texture found in mundane spaces, like the glowing calligraphy of a storefront or the fluorescent floral print of an abaya. Al Qasimi is part of generation of young Gulf artists experiencing immense change to their home in the form of migration, globalization, and cultural investment. Her sumptuous images chronicle a people and place grappling with how to meet their future. —Tessa Solomon

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Best contemporary art books: a guide for 2023

From maverick memoirs to topical tomes, turn over a new leaf with the Wallpaper* arts desk’s pick of new releases and all-time favourite art books

'Marcel Duchamp', Artwork by Marcel Duchamp best art books

When it comes to art books, contrary to popular pessimism, print still very much has a pulse. From maverick monographs and topical tomes to coffee table icebreakers, these are the best art books for 2023 – ideal for art gifts (or self-gifting - no judgement here). 

The best contemporary art books: an ongoing guide

‘abstract expressionists: the women’, by ellen g. landau and joan m. marter.

Abstract Expressionism: the supercharged, ultra-gestural response to a changing world. Instead of documenting what they saw, artists looked inwards and used their feelings as raw material. We’ve all heard of Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, but what about their female counterparts? A new book by Ellen G. Landau and Joan M. Marter seeks to remedy this imbalance, spotlighting the (often unsung) heroines of Abstract Expressionism, including ​​Lee Krasner, Perle Fine, Dorothy Dehner, Helen Frankenthaler and Alma Thomas. The book, published by Merrell Publishers, will coincide with a major London art exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery, titled ‘Action, Gesture, Paint Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940–70’, on view from 9 February. 


Censored Art Today, by Gareth Harris 

In recent years, debates and scrutiny surrounding censorship have swelled to new levels of intensity, notably in the world of arts and culture. But in a globalised, digitised, subjective world, who are the censors, and what are the consequences of censoring art? These themes are at the heart of Gareth Harris’ engaging and timely analyses in Censored Art Today . From political censorship in China, Cuba and the Middle East to the suppression of LGBTQ+ artists, cancel culture and the algorithms policing art online, Harris’ superbly-researched book poses critical questions about the trajectory of free speech, free expression and ultimately, who gets to decide. 

£19.99, (opens in new tab)

The Gourmand’s Egg. A Collection of Stories & Recipes 

It’s been Dalí’s muse, Hitchcock’s nightmare, and for others, one of the most versatile culinary ingredients human nature ever invented. It turns out that the egg also makes a great ingredient for a book. With written contributions from Ruth Reichl and Jennifer Higgie, The sumptuously illustrated The Gourmand’s Egg, published by Taschen celebrates the long-running relationship between eggs and art, ranging from antiquity to now. This cracking read covers the full spectrum of egg potential: poached, scrambled, whipped into a cocktail, transformed into an art medium, or used as a tool for protest. 

£40, (opens in new tab)

Adriana Varejão, published by Rizzoli Electa, in association with Gagosian

This first English-language monograph on Adriana Varejão explores how the Brazilian artist has stretched the discipline of painting to its extremes as she reifies the legacy of Brazil's colonial past, pluralist identities, disparate cultures, religion, eroticism and Modernism. From early paintings created in the 1990s to recent multimedia installations, pages explode with chaotic, pulsating red viscera rupturing with force from cold, domestic structures. 

$75, (opens in new tab)

Great Women Painters

The recorded history of painting is long and comprehensive; for the female pioneers, it’s less so. In her 1971 essay, Linda Nochlin asked Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? The answer, she found, is that there were great women artists, they had just all too often been denied opportunities for greatness. Inspired by Nochlins text, a new book Great Women Painters , published in October, will explore the work of 300 artists born in 60 countries from the 16th to 21st centuries, framed as an A-Z of the key female players in painting history. Among those featured include Vanessa Bell, Etel Adnan, Rana Begum , Cecily Brown, Judy Chicago , Elaine de Kooning, Genieve Figgis, Katharina Grosse , Carmen Herrera , Luchita Hurtado , Shirazeh Houshiary,  and Julie Mehretu.  

£49.95, (opens in new tab)

Doug Aitken: Works 1992–2022

Doug Aitken, Green Lens , 2021 (detail). Installation view: Isola della Certosa, Venice, Italy, 2021, from Works 1992-2022 (MACK, 2022)

Diving into the staggering career of American artist, Doug Aitken: Works 1992–2022 explores everything from the ambitious artist’s large-scale film installations, site-specific sculptures in extraordinary locations, to happenings like Station to Station (2013), which saw a train containing a nomadic studio cross the USA from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with performances staged at each stop. The 600-page tome is punctuated by texts by the likes of Dean Kuipers, Daniel Birnbaum, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Susan Solomon. 

£100, (opens in new tab)

Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp means different things to different people. To some, he fathered the readymade, to Willem de Kooning in 1951, he was a ‘one-man movement’. Published in 1959, the book Marcel Duchamp became the bible of the artist’s work. It was the result of years of Duchamp’s collaboration with its author, art historian and critic Robert Lebel, and offered a comprehensive and penetrating study of the artist: from his early painting, subsequent farewell to painting, to his fixation on the fetish. Marcel Duchamp went out of print for 60 years, but the Grove Press English edition is now back in circulation with Hauser & Wirth Publishers’ authorised facsimile.

£100, (opens in new tab)

The Women Who Changed Art Forever: Feminist Art – The Graphic Novel

Spread from The Women Who Changed Art Forever – Feminist Art Graphic Novel , by Valentina Grande and Eva Rosetti, published by Laurence King

In 1971, art historian Linda Nochlin asked, ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?' The issue, she wrote, ‘lies not in our stars, our hormones, our menstrual cycles, or our empty internal spaces, but in our institutions and our education'. There had been great women artists, they had just been denied the opportunity of greatness. The Women Who Changed Art Forever by Valentina Grande and Eva Rosetti tells the story of four trailblazers of feminist art: Judy Chicago , Faith Ringgold, Ana Mendieta and the Guerrilla Girls. The fight for equality is a long road. The graphic novel narrates this unfinished story with vibrance and accessibility through those that paved, and continue to pave, the way to a more equal art world.

£14.99, (opens in new tab)

The Hotel by Sophie Calle 

Sophie Calle,  Room 28 . Both in the book  The Hotel by Sophie Calle, Siglio, 2021

Privacy. These days, it’s everywhere, and nowhere. In 1981, Sophie Calle took a job as a chambermaid to breach it, for art. At the Hotel C in Venice, the French artist snuck a camera and tape recorder into her mop bucket. As she cleaned, she voyeuristically and methodically documented the personal belongings of guests; their bedding, books, postcards, and toiletries. She rifled through rubbish bins, diary entries, letters and family photographs. She eavesdropped on arguments and sex and sprayed herself with perfume that wasn’t hers.  The Hotel, published for the first time as a standalone book in English, is a provocative examination of privacy, lack thereof, and what fragmented possessions might reveal about our lives – all told through belongings that were never meant for Calle, or us, to see. 


1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, by Ai Weiwei 

1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir , by Ai Weiwei, published by Penguin Random House

Experiencing the art of Ai Weiwei is like biting into a scorpion. Plenty of sting, searingly sharp, and hard to swallow. And so it should be. The Chinese artist has dedicated his life, career and freedom to exploring some of the most pertinent issues facing humanity. His long-awaited memoir, 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows , is a century-long epic tale of China narrated through his own life and the legacy of his father, the celebrated poet Ai Qing, who was banned from writing and subjected to hard labour for 20 years. As Ai told us in an interview this year: ‘I [decided] to write a book about what was happening, so my son knew his grandfather and his father, from their own words.’

RRP £25, (opens in new tab)

From the Sculptor’s Studio: Conversations with 20 Seminal Artists, by Ina Cole

Anish Kapoor, Mother as a Mountain, 1985, Wood, gesso and pigment. In  From the Sculptor’s Studio, by Ina Cole

There’s a majestic quality to the artist’s studio; a sense of potential in the often-private to-and-fro of an artist as they wrestle with concept, form and execution. From the Sculptor’s Studio,  published by Laurence King, is a record of where the magic happens. Writer Ina Cole conducted conversations with 20 seminal sculptors, exploring the artists’ lives and work in their own words, in their own environments. The book features 165 images of studios and artworks, alongside portraits of each sculptor, which includes Phyllida Barlow, Anthony Caro, Antony Gormley, Mona Hatoum, Anish Kapoor, Richard Long, David Nash, Cornelia Parker, Marc Quinn, Eva Rothschild and Rachel Whiteread.

£45, (opens in new tab)

Photography Now, by Charlotte Jansen

Cover of  Photography Now: Fifty Pioneers Defining Photography for the Twenty-First Century , by Charlotte Jansen, published by Octopus Publishing Group

For photographers in the 20th century, things were more straightforward. Whole genres could be sparked by a single photograph of something the world had never seen. These days, standing out in an image-saturated post-Instagram world is tough. In this comprehensive, authoritative and international book, writer and longtime Wallpaper* contributor Charlotte Jansen surveys the 50 most significant photographers working today, with high-quality reproductions of their work, commentary and interviews. Artists featured include Nan Goldin, Wolfgang Tillmans, Hassan Hajjaj, Andreas Gursky, Juno Calypso, Zanele Muholi, Shirin Neshat, Catherine Opie, Martin Parr, Cindy Sherman, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Juergen Teller. It's an important book in an age when society faces the increasingly heavy social responsibilities of photography, and visual communication more broadly. 

£35, (opens in new tab)

Peter Blake: Collage

Peter Blake: Collage  published by Thames & Hudson

Throughout his seven-decade career – which included co-designing The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album sleeve – artist Peter Blake has redefined what collage can be: a collision of media, genre, time and space. Peter Blake: Collage reveals the British artist’s knack for extracting fragments of banal reality, and transforming them into compositions that could only exist in imagination. It also captures the artist’s flair for fusing seemingly disparate, distinct items, figures and scenes into one cohesive artwork, one that has cemented his status as the ‘Godfather of British pop art’. As old school friend David Hockney notes in the book’s foreword: ‘Peter understands that collage places one time on top of another’. (opens in new tab)

The Kitchen Studio: Culinary Creations by Artists

Spread from  The Kitchen Studio: Culinary Creations by Artists , published by Phaidon, featuring Charles Gaines’ Southern-Style Candied Yams recipe, photographed by Nicolas Polli for Wallpaper*

As we know from our long-running Artist’s Palate series, creativity does not stop at the studio door; for many, it extends to the kitchen. This is the subject of Phaidon’s The Kitchen Studio: Culinary Creations by Artists , in which 70 leading contemporary artists present 100 recipes, illustrated with personal photographs, paintings, collages, sketches, iPhone snaps, and illustrations. Among the features – which include contributions by Subodh Gupta, Jeppe Hein , Carsten Höller , Laure Provost, Kehinde Wiley, Ragnar Kjartansson , Philippe Parreno , and Rirkrit Tiravanija – we were excited to find Charles Gaines’ Southern-Style Candied Yams , a recipe originally commissioned for the March 2021 issue of Wallpaper*. 

£29.95, (opens in new tab)  

Harriet Lloyd-Smith is the Arts Editor of Wallpaper*, responsible for the art pages across digital and print, including profiles, exhibition reviews, and contemporary art collaborations. She started at Wallpaper* in 2017 and has written for leading contemporary art publications, auction houses and arts charities, and lectured on review writing and art journalism. When she’s not writing about art, she’s making her own.

Following on from its inaugural edition during Fuorisalone 2023, Prada Frames returns with a double symposium in Hong Kong (21 – 22 March) and Milan (17 – 19 April)

By Rosa Bertoli • Published 6 March 23

A fresh look at what’s new on the earbuds market, including earbuds by Sony, Bowers & Wilkins, Bang & Olufsen and more

By Jonathan Bell • Published 5 March 23

Few sports cars have the record and results of Porsche's 911, a sports car for all seasons. The eighth generation machine stays true to the original blueprint

Flick through, mull over and deep-dive into the best photography books on the market, from our shelves to you

By Sophie Gladstone • Published 1 March 23

Published in February 2023 by Taschen, a new collector's book will go behind the scenes of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, charting the unseen making of a film that defined the horror genre

By Harriet Lloyd-Smith • Published 17 December 22

Sorry I Gave Birth I Disappeared But Now I’m Back by photographer Andi Galdi Vinko explores new motherhood in all its messy, beautiful reality

By Hannah Silver • Last updated 13 October 22

Aerial photographer Brad Walls provides a crisp conclusion to the summer months with new book Pools From Above – you’ll want to dive right in

By Martha Elliott • Last updated 28 September 22

Spanning music, fashion, design and food, a new book, Make Break Remix explores the global rise and rise of Korean culture 

By SuhYoung Yun • Last updated 2 October 22

Karole Armitage, the choreographer behind Madonna’s Vogue video and Marc Jacobs’ A/W 2021 show, debuts A Pandemic Notebook at New York Live Arts

By Mary Cleary • Last updated 6 October 22

Building Utopia: The Barbican Centre, published to coincide with the institution’s 40th anniversary, explores the birth of the Barbican, its storied history and its unparalleled impact on contemporary arts and culture 

By Harriet Lloyd-Smith • Last updated 6 October 22

After 60 years out of print, the seminal 1959 monograph Marcel Duchamp is back in circulation courtesy of Hauser & Wirth Publishers. To mark the occasion, we asked five contemporary artists – Ed Ruscha, Gillian Wearing, Larry Bell, Monica Bonvicini and Mika Rottenberg – what Duchamp means to them

Wallpaper* is part of Future plc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. Visit our corporate site . © Future Publishing Limited Quay House, The Ambury, Bath BA1 1UA. All rights reserved. England and Wales company registration number 2008885.

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17 of the Seasons Best Art Books

17 of the Season’s Best Art Books

By Allison Schaller

This fall brings with it a cornucopia of incredible art books: Whether enjoyed around the (coffee) table with family and friends or alone by a fire, these compendiums—created by art historians, designers, and the artists themselves—are best consumed with stillness and time.

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“Holding Space: Life and Love Through a Queer Lens”

Los Angeles-based photographer Ryan Pfluger spent 2020 and 2021 making portraits and learning the stories of many queer couples across the United States: Garret and Jay, for example, appear in a composition evocative of a classical painting, embracing in a river surrounded by lush greenery. (Garrett, Jay tells Pfluger, was “the first man I ever loved.”) Holding Space lives up to and goes beyond its name, allowing the couples Pfluger photographs to not only exist on but transcend the page. During a time of such political and social upheaval Pfluger’s act of making space for love, joy, vulnerability and affection feels intensely radical. (Ryan Pfluger, PA Press)

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“William Eggleston: The Outlands, Selected Works”

With 90 photographs captured by William Eggleston from 1969 to 1974, The Outlands pushes to reshape the landscape and semiotics of the American South. The relative mundanity of the photographs’ subjects—vintage cars, hand painted business signs, and portraits in small towns (Eggleston's mother included among them)—is made fantastic through their bright colors and contemporary framing. These motifs, now signature to not only Eggleston, but to the way we imagine the American vista, give this book a profoundly sentimental thread. (William Eggleston, David Zwirner Books)

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“Ruth Asawa: All Is Possible”

In an expanded catalog of the artist’s 2021 show by the same name, Ruth Asawa: All Is Possible comprises photographs of 64 of Asawa’s works. From her well-known wire sculptures, beloved for their technical discipline and ethereal nature, to some lesser-known works on paper, the book celebrates the best of her impressive oeuvre, and includes additional works and writings from curators, historians, and poets, each offering a refreshing reconsideration of the artist’s work. (Ruth Asawa, David Zwirner Books)

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“Great Women Painters”

Great Women Painters , a continuation of Phaidon’s The Art series, is a thorough retelling of the history of painting. The book includes both well-known artists like Hilma af Klint, Frida Kahlo and Agnes Martin and lesser-known artists such as Jadé Fadojutimi, Tamara de Lempicka and Paula Rego. (Phaidon)

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“Hurvin Anderson”

This monograph, the first to catalog Hurvin Anderson’s extensive body of work, begins in 2000, near the beginning of his career, and stretches to his more contemporary works—a survey that showcases the ways in which the artist’s style and themes have evolved over time. In his paintings, Anderson uses both realism and abstraction, blurring the lines between metaphors, history and his own memories to explore his Afro-Caribbean heritage, and the complexities of that identity within the context of his British citizenship and upbringing. The book is peppered with poems by actor Roger Robinson, some refreshing the narrative behind the paintings, others offering a completely different take. (Hurvin Anderson, Rizzoli)

new books about art

By Tara Ariano

new books about art

By Savannah Walsh

new books about art

By Chris Murphy

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“How to Live with Objects”

With How to Live with Objects , an objet d’art in itself, the founders of the magazine Sight Unseen have created the bible of modern home decor and style; a design self help book, made to aid in up-leveling the intent and impact of your space. Broken into chapters that include Styling, Handmade Objects, and Sentimental Objects, and containing intel from interior experts like rising star Mark Grattan, or sculptor Ellen Pong (the genius behind the charcuterie tissue box that made hefty rounds on social media in 2020), How to Live With Objects is a well of inspiration. (Monica Khemsurov and Jill Singer, Penguin Random House)

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One of the true leaders of 1970’s art photography, Mitch Epstein is best known for his career-long study of America; Recreation is a collection of Epstein's work that looks at “rituals of pleasure”—a holiday parade, state fair, Halloween party, and a rest in the park. To name a few—in a pre-smartphone, less self-conscious country. In this expanded second edition, (the original was published in 2005,) nearly a third of the photographs have never been previously published, and all of the images have been reprinted to match and exceed the vibrancy of the colors and pictorial sharpness of the film's era. (Mitch Epstein, Steidl)

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“Some Say Ice”

In the late 1800’s, the photographer Charles Van Schaick published Wisconsin Death Trip , which documented the hardships of residents of Black River Falls, a small town in the central west of Wisconsin. As a child, the book provided photographer Alessandra Senguinetti with her first confrontation with mortality; eventually, it lead her to photograph the same town, five decades after Van Schaick’s exploration. Some Say Ice presents this work: confrontationally uncomfortable portraits, masterful compositions, and a near total lack of text (save for the book title and a short description at the very end from Sanguinetti) suspend the book in something of time purgatory, further bonding it to Wisconsin Death Trip. The newness that Senguinetti brings to her subject is her careful, methodical study of death, highlighting its existence in our day-to-day lives. (Alessandra Senguinetti, MACK)

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“Orifice + Aperture”

Orifice + Aperture is a beautifully curated selection of the works of American photographer, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, well known for his studio portraits. His work, while an exploration of intimacy and self representation, also examines photography as a medium: the camera’s presence in the frame, by reflection in a mirror, creates a tight link between photography and Sepuya’s visual self-representation. (Paul Mpagi Sepuya, TBW)

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“The Pliable Plane: The Wall as Surface in Sculpture and Architecture, 1945–75”

In The Pliable Plane, historian and curator Penelope Curtis surveys the influence of sculpture on architecture in the post war period, from 1945 through 1975. Curtis’ study focuses on the wall as a particular plane of creative thinking, looking at and dissecting a variety of constructions, from the carved and cast to the theoretical: for example, Curtis looks deeply at bunkers and their physical purpose of safety and combining the above ground with underground, to their adaptation into architecture theory by people like Paul Rudolph in his designing of Yale’s Art & Architecture building. The 135-page book introduces pivotal characters and artworks, including sculptor Henry Moore Jacques Tati’s 1967 film Play Time , and textile artist Anni Albers, to explore the many forms a wall can embody. (Penelope Curtis, MACK)

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“Kitchen Table”

Made in 1990 and originally published 2016, Kitchen Table , which encompasses Carrie Mae Weems’ possibly best-known body of work, is always worth revisiting. This new edition, made up of 20 photographs and 14 panels of text, tells a story of a woman from the singular view at her kitchen table: Weems has described the work as a look at “the battle around the family . . . monogamy . . . and between the sexes.” (Carrie Mae Weems, MW Editions)

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“Maya Ruiz-Picasso: Daughter of Pablo”

Published in conjunction with a show at the Picasso Museum in Paris, Maya Ruiz-Picasso: Daughter of Pablo examines the complex relationship between Pablo Picasso and his daughter, as well as the influence she had on the artist’s painting. The book tells the story of Picasso’s relationship with Maya’s mother, one of his many muses, and of Maya’s upbringing, and includes not only Picasso’s portraits of Maya, but also, sketches, letters, and children’s toys that he made for her—a glimpse of a different side to this well-known master. (Picasso, SKIRA Paris)

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“Broken Spectre”

Made up of stills from Rochard Mosse’s film by the same name, and photographic works made in accompaniment, Broken Spectre tells the story of the devastation to the Amazon Rainforest—and its broader climate consequences. While the story is one that's frequently documented in film and photography, Mosse’s work makes the invisible visible through multispectral cameras matching satellite imaging technology paired with his now signature ultraviolet botanical studies, and heat-sensitive analogue film. This technically prolific way of working makes for photos that are both informationally rich as documents of a landscape, as well as visually rich images that lean towards the psychedelic in color or exposure. (Broken Spectre by Richard Mosse is published by Loose Joints in collaboration with 180 Studios and Converge 45.)

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“Graciela Iturbide on Dreams, Symbols, and Imagination”

Graciela Iturbide on Dreams, Symbols, and Imagination is the newest in Aperture’s Photography Workshop Series, each of which partners with an artist in the field to discuss creative approaches and insights. Iturbide is best known for her dreamlike portraits and otherworldly landscapes, and in this volume discusses capturing surprise in photographs, knowing what speaks to you, and using one’s dreams and inner self as tools for exploration. (Graciela Iturbide, Aperture)

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“Marilyn Nance: Last Day in Lagos”

From January 15 to February 12, 1977, more than 15,000 artists, intellectuals, and performers came together in Lagos, Nigeria, for the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, FESTAC’77. In Last Day in Lagos, Brooklyn-based photographer Marilyn Nancecatalogs her experience at the festival:a thorough account of sociopolitical significance, beauty, and joy of the gathering. (Marilyn Nance, CARA / Fourthwall Books)

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“Baldwin Lee”

In this visually-rich book, the first monograph of Baldwin Lee’s work, 88 photographs chronicle the American South. Made over a series of road trips in the 1980s, Lee focused his camera on Black Americans of all ages: from children playing together by the train tracks or sitting proudly on their porch with a single dollar bill, to teenagers lounging on their cars, to a couple embraced kissing inside their home, all the way up to the elderly in the community—some sitting on their porches watching children play, another in the passenger seat of a car in their sunday best. (Baldwin Lee, Hunter Point Press)

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“New Canvas”

Daniel Gordon’s photographic still lives are so deeply linked to his process it’s nearly impossible to separate the works from the process while viewing. He photographs objects such as flowers, fruits, bowls, pots, and plants, then prints, cuts and collages those images to create a collage-sculpture of the item; from these created objects he lays a scene, which he photographs once again New Canvas embraces that experience by offering the viewer a look at some of Gordon’s precious paper objects, each made with care and intention, against a white background. The book ends with some of his greatest, most complex pieces, giving the viewer a start-to-finish experience of Gordon's mind-bending work. (Daniel Gordon, Choose Commune)

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By Vanity Fair

new books about art

By Laura Regensdorf

new books about art

By Maggie Coughlan

new books about art

What to read in 2022 the best new art books to look out for

What to read in 2022: the best new art books to look out for

From Beeple to Vermeer, YSL to Van Gogh — our pick of the most compelling titles coming out this year

1 Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakech By Studio KO Publisher: Phaidon, out now

Conceived as a diary by the founders of Studio KO, the French-Moroccan practice behind the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech, this elegant new book chronicles the 1,423 days it took to design, build and inaugurate the landmark institution devoted to the work of the legendary fashion designer .

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A tribute to the creative collaboration between Saint Laurent’s partner Pierre Bergé , to whom the book is dedicated, and Studio KO, it details everything from Bergé’s first call to the practice to the opening of the museum’s doors in 2017, one month after Bergé’s death.

The volume features sketches, plans and archival photographs, as well as behind-the-scenes titbits from Saint Laurent’s inner circle, including Betty Catroux and Catherine Deneuve .

2 Richard Misrach: Notations By Darius Himes Publisher: Radius Books, 1 March 2022

Instrumental in reviving large-format and colour photography in the 1970s, Richard Misrach is considered one of the most influential photographers of his generation. He is perhaps best known for seductive vistas of the American landscape that examine our relationship to the natural world. Since 2006, working exclusively with a digital camera, Misrach has explored the aesthetic possibilities of the negative image.

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Written by Darius Himes, Christie’s international head of Photographs , this sumptuous, landscape-format volume presents 92 images from Misrach’s latest body of work, comprising landscapes and seascapes in a reversed colour spectrum.

For inspiration, Misrach looked to Ansel Adams , who compared the photographic negative to sheet music that could be interpreted in numerous ways, and to the avant-garde composer John Cage, who compiled musical scores and presented them as graphic art in his 1969 Notations .

Encapsulating the familiar in unfamiliar ways, this work is breathtakingly beautiful and demands slow, considered looking.

3 Nicolas Party By Stéphane Aquin, Stefan Banz, Ali Subotnick and Melissa Hyde Publisher: Phaidon, 3 February 2022

The Swiss painter Nicolas Party is one of contemporary art’s bright young(ish) things. In November 2021, his painting Landscape   sold at Christie’s for $3,270,000, a record auction price for the artist. Now comes the publication of the 41-year-old’s first significant monograph, charting his rise from his early days as a graffiti artist to the success that followed his adoption of soft pastel in 2013 — far from the most fashionable medium in the 21st century, yet one in which Party has shown great mastery, and with which he has made his name.

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In dreamy, colour-saturated landscapes, portraits and still lifes, he captures the essence of his subjects in intriguing ways, heightening their physical and emotional resonance. Among the contributors to the book (illustrated with more than 200 images) is Stéphane Aquin, director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, where Party is about to be the subject of a major exhibition . He sets out, among other things, why the artist’s star will continue to rise in the years ahead.

4 El Anatsui: The Reinvention of Sculpture By Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu Publisher: Damiani, 19 April 2022

Featuring essays by heavyweight historians Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu, El Anatsui: The Reinvention of Sculpture   explores the sense of narrative and the raw romanticism that lie at the heart of Ghana’s most important artist. Through sculpture, installation and drawings, El Anatsui considers the legacies of colonialism and the ongoing environmental crisis in Africa.

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Having moved to Nigeria in the 1970s, Anatsui became involved with the influential Nsukka group, which sought to combine indigenous art practices and modern art. He became known for his innovative use of recycled materials, from driftwood to old milk tins, most recently creating shimmering wall sculptures from bottle caps that appear to be in constant motion. The Reinvention of Sculpture   is a timely survey of this hugely important figure in contemporary African art.

5 I Am Sparkling: N.V. Parekh and His Portrait Studio Clients, Mombasa, Kenya 1940-1980 By Isolde Brielmaier Publisher: Damiani, 19 April 2022

The first overview dedicated to the influential Indian photographer N.V. Parekh spotlights his daring approach to studio portraiture, his diverse clientele and the temporal, geographical and cultural milieu in which he flourished. Established in 1942 in Mombasa, Parekh’s studio drew sitters of all ages and backgrounds, from East Africa and beyond, looking to express themselves in innovative ways.

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Isolde Brielmaier’s book contains rarely seen images from Parekh’s photographic archive, which was acquired by the Italian poet and artist Sarenco in 2001, and extensive interviews with his clients, focusing particularly on women. With a preface by the artist Wangechi Mutu  and Brielmaier’s insightful contextual analysis, I Am Sparkling   is sure to revive interest in the life and work of a historically significant but little-known photographer.

6 The Real and the Romantic: English Art Between Two World Wars By Frances Spalding Publisher: Thames & Hudson, 14 June 2022

Veteran biographer Frances Spalding, known for her insightful books on the early British Modernists Vanessa Bell , Duncan Grant and Roger Fry , turns her penetrating gaze on the interwar years. The Real and the Romantic   brings together a collection of British artists, among them Eric Ravilious , Paul Nash , Eileen Agar and Winifred Nicholson , who were fired up by the avant-garde innovations happening in modern art across the channel.

new books about art

Through exhibitions, letters and interviews, Spalding reveals the excitement that abstraction and Surrealism generated in these radical painters, and how their optimism withered under the storm blast of Fascism in the late 1930s as artists turned away from international modern art towards a pastoral English Romanticism.

7 Culture as Scandal: The Hermitage Story By Geraldine Norman and Mikhail Piotrovsky Publisher: Lund Humphries, 2 May 2022

In a rare act of transparency for a national body of its kind, the director of Russia’s Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky, has teamed up with an English journalist to document the scandals that have beset the institution, which has survived two revolutions, two world wars and the rise and fall of Communism.

Unseemly highlights include the First Secretary of the Communist Party, Grigory Romanov, being rumoured to have used — and ruined — a great 18th-century porcelain dinner service at his daughter’s wedding; and the setting up of a short-lived and heavily criticised Hermitage satellite museum inside the Venetian casino in Las Vegas.

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Most scandalous of all, however, might be the theft of 226 items of gold and silver from the Hermitage’s vaults. Their absence was only discovered when the curator in charge of their safekeeping died suddenly at her desk in 2005, under mysterious circumstances.

8 Beeple: Everydays, the First 5000 Images By Mike Winkelmann Publisher: Abrams Cernunnos, 17 May 2022

Last March, the art world felt a seismic shift when an unknown graphic designer named Mike Winkelmann — alias Beeple  — sold an artwork for more than $69 million, the third highest price ever paid for a work by a living artist at auction, surpassing market stars such as  Damien Hirst , Jasper Johns and Gerhard Richter .

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Even more extraordinary was the fact that the work didn’t physically exist and was sold by Christie’s as a non-fungible token (NFT). Everydays: The First 5000 Days   was made up of 5,000 digital images of a dystopian future, which Beeple had been making and sharing online for a decade. In May, they are being published in their entirety for the first time, as a monograph. Also included is an interview with Winkelmann, in which he reflects on his new-found celebrity and how the sale of his work kick-started NFT mania.

9 Archive of the World: Art and Imagination in Spanish America, 1500-1800 By Ilona Katzew Publisher: DelMonico Books/Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 14 June 2022

At the end of the 15th century, Spanish conquistadors following the lead of Christopher Columbus began rapidly colonising the Americas. Their mission was threefold: glory for the crown; spreading the word of God; and plundering gold. Spain’s grip over the region lasted for more than 300 years.

This new reference book published by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art examines the rich and complex artistic traditions of the Americas during this period, as the land became part of a vast and powerful trading network that linked Europe, Asia and Africa, with goods and people flowing both in and out.

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It features nearly 100 catalogue entries for Spanish American artworks in the museum’s collection, including textiles, paintings and decorative arts, and has been produced to coincide with a show of the same name at LACMA this summer.

10 Vermeer and the Art of Love By Aneta Georgievska-Shine Publisher: Lund Humphries, 1 June 2022

In 2023, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam will host the largest Vermeer exhibition in history. Those wanting a sort of aperitif in the meantime could do a lot worse than to delve into this book by Aneta Georgievska-Shine of the University of Maryland. It is devoted to one of the most important themes in the Dutchman’s oeuvre: love.

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For the author, this doesn’t just include the romantic undercurrent to paintings such as A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman   (in which a man listens keenly to a young woman making music). It also includes a broader definition of love, bordering on a kind of spirituality.

Vermeer’s work is sometimes seen as otherworldly, characterised as it is by gorgeous bursts of northern light into otherwise dark, Protestant interiors. According to Georgievska-Shine, this can be conceived precisely in terms of the love that the artist invested in his pictures.

11 Van Gogh in America Edited by Jill Shaw Publisher: Yale University Press, 13 September 2022

Vincent van Gogh never left Europe, so the title of this new book doesn’t refer to any trip he made across the Atlantic. Rather, it considers the early reception of the artist’s work in the US. He was completely unknown there at the time of his death, and it wasn’t until 1913’s Armory Show in New York City (more than two decades later) that his art was first publicly exhibited.

new books about art

Over time, the Dutchman’s reputation increased, thanks to the intervention of an ever-growing band of artists, dealers, collectors and curators — though as important a factor as any in boosting Van Gogh’s popularity was Irving Stone's bestselling 1934 novel, Lust for Life , later adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Kirk Douglas.

The publication of Van Gogh in America   marks the centenary of the first purchase of a Van Gogh painting by a US public museum:  Self-Portrait  (1887), by the Detroit Institute of Arts, in 1922. An exhibition to accompany the book will open at that museum in October.

12 Women Painting Women By Andrea Karnes Publisher: Delmonico Books/Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth, 10 May 2022

A book that punches well above its weight, Women Painting Women   is a study of how some 50 female artists have depicted the female form over the past 60 years. While the reach is international, the geographical expanses are not wide enough to hide commonalities — all the artists are galvanised by feminism and body politics.

new books about art

The book begins in the 1960s with the trailblazing African-American artists Faith Ringgold and the late Emma Amos — two artists who took on the white male patriarchy and created portraits that raised issues of race and gender. Also featured is Joan Semmel , a painter who swapped abstraction for figuration in the 1970s to challenge the way women are portrayed in the pornography industry.

Among the more recent artists to be included is the emerging French painter Apolonia Sokol, who has been vocal about her use of portraiture as a way of confronting marginalisation in society.

The book is published in association with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, where an exhibition of the same name opens in May.

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