Books about art, artists and the art world worth reading...
Playing to the Gallery by Grayson Perry. Subtitled “Helping Contemporary Art in Its Struggle to Be Understood.”
Inside the Painter's Studio and Inside the Artist's Studio by Joe Fig. Fig visits 48 artists’s studios between the two books. Along the way we learn alot about process, personal history; interesting stuff.
Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton. Thornton hangs with the people involved in the various aspects and institutions of the art world. The chapter titles give an idea: The Auction, The Fair, The Prize, The Studio Visit.
Lives of the Artists by Calvin Tomkins. Examination of the lives and works of some of the big-name artists of our time, including Damien Hirst, Matthew Barney, Jeff Koons, James Turrell, Richard Serra and John Currin. Also by Tomkins, The Bride and the Bachelors, see below
The $12 Million Stuffed Shark, subtitled “The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art,” by Don Thomson. A very informative investigation of the mostly hidden mechanisms of the art market.
Matisse the Master, A Life of Henri Matisse: The Conquest of Color, 1909 - 1954 by Hilary Spurling.
The Artist in the Modern World by Oskar Batschmann. An analysis of how we got here; that is, how the artist's role in society evolved from glorifier of nobility, church and the merchant wealthy to independent social critic (though still bought and sold by the merchant wealthy). Topics covered include the evolution and rise to prominence of the art exhibition; the emergence of a public audience for art; The politics of the French Salon exhibitions of the 19th century (see also “The Judgment of Paris,” below); the Vienna Secession and the Bauhaus; and the art strategies of Duchamp, Warhol and Beuys.
Inside the Painter’s Studio by Joe Fig. Interviews with contemporary artists covering studio setup, working methods, work habits, artistic development, attitudes and philosophy.
Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Ormond is an excellent book by artists for artists on “the perils and rewards of artmaking.” Should be required reading for all artists.
Robert Hughes is not afraid to say what he doesn’t like and why. Sometimes he’s been a lone voice of sanity, like when he dissed Schnabel and Basquiat in the 80s. He’s done way more for artists than he’s generally given credit for, by bringing art in all its gloriously infuriating complexity to a skeptical general public. Check out Nothing If Not Critical, The Shock of the New, The Culture of Complaint, and American Visions
True Colors by Anthony Haden-Guest. A good survey of contemporary American art from Abstract Expressionism up to the very recent past. A gossipy insider’s tale of the art world as it is.
It Hurts by Michael Collings. Also a good survey of art from the 1950s through the 1990s. His love for art and artists means he knows his subject. That he doesn’t take it too seriously makes it a great read.
The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe. About a bunch of artists who have important critics write important words about them. Later they go out and get hammered.
The Painter and the Photograph by Van Deren Coke. An investigation into the use of photography as source material from Delacroix to Warhol.
The Secret Knowledge by David Hockney. An investigation into the use of optical devices as drawing aids by visual artists from the Renaissance onward.
M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio by Peter Robb. Caravaggio’s life would make a great movie. He was a hot-tempered and violent man who spent the last years of his short life under a death sentence from the pope. He may also have been the greatest painter ever to pick up a brush.
De Kooning: An American Master by Mark Stevens, Annalyn Swan. I admit he was not one of my favorite painters. But this book, besides giving me a new appreciation for his art, showed me how his influence touched my life and the lives of most contemporary artists.
Painting by Numbers: Komar and Melamid’s scientific guide to art by Komar & Melamid; edited by JoAnn Wypejewski. Russian conceptual artists Komar & Melamid conducted an extensive worldwide survey to determine just exactly what the most-liked and least-liked paintings look like in countries as diverse as Finland and Kenya, the U.S.A. and Ukraine. Oddly enough, the same painting emerges as favorite across cultures, with variations in certain elements.
Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King. There was a time when the Sistine Chapel ceiling was half finished. Brings to life the day to day struggle to get the work done, with Raphael and Bramante as the competition and Julius the warrior pope as boss.
Also by Ross King, The Judgment of Paris. The personalities, politics, and turbulent history of the rise of Impressionism in Paris in the 1860s and '70s.
Why Art Cannot Be Taught: A Handbook for Art Students by James Elkins. Interesting history of how Art came to be taught in universities. For any current or former art student or instructor who has ever sat through a crit.
Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren.
Standing in the Sun: A Life of J.M.W. Turner by Anthony Bailey. Other painters didn’t want to hang next to him at the Royal Academy exhibits for fear that their work would become invisible next to his.
The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland. Fictionalized account of one of the first great women painters.
Affirmations for Artists by Eric Maisel. Because I’m good enough and I’m smart enough ... no, really, it’s full of good stuff.
Conversations with Artists by Selden Rodman.
The Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari. The classic 16th century work. Vasari sometimes had an axe to grind, and got his facts wrong some of the time, but gives great impressions of the Italian Renaissance artists.
The Renaissance by Will Durant. If I could pick a time in history to live other than our own, this would be it.
How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist by Caroll Michels.
Art & Soul by Audrey Flack.
Artist to Artist Inspiration & Advice from Artists Past & Present. Compiled by Clint Brown.
Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation Edited by Brian Wallis. Critical essays on Post-modernism.
The Art Crowd by Sophy Burnham. An examination of the New York Art World as it existed in the sixties and seventies—the Castelli years.
The Bride and the Bachelors: Five Masters of the Avant Garde by Calvin Tomkins. The lives and works of Marcel Duchamp, probably the twentieth century's most influential artist. Also covered are Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Yves Tinguely.
The Art Spirit by Robert Henri.
Ways of Seeing by John Berger.
From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun.
The Uses & Abuses of Art by Jacques Barzun.
Beyond the Brillo Box by Arthur C. Danto.
Image of the Body by Michael Gill. How the human form has been portrayed through history and different civilizations.
Landscape and Memory by Simon Schama. How the landscape has been portrayed through history and different civilizations, mostly Western. How the landscape has influenced history.