Navigating the art world can be tricky, and sometimes it can be difficult to find a starting point when in search for the perfect read. Lovers of books, this one’s for you. Here at The Artling, we bring you a list of some of the most influential and important art historical books that will draw you into a whole new, creative, and imaginative world. These insightful and education reads will enable you to discover more about the dynamic art world, and learn more about your favourite artists, collectors and art movements.
Ways of Seeing by John Berger (1972)
A must-have book in every Art Historian’s library, John Berger’s Ways of Seeing is one of the most influential and stimulating books on art. Based on the BBC television series in 1972, John Berger's Ways of Seeing is a unique look at the way we view art. Throughout the book, Berger posits that the way we as individuals see things is very much influenced by our knowledge and beliefs. In this way, he demonstrates how the notion of ‘looking’ is a political act, perhaps even a historically and socially constructed process.
The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes (1980)
Want to learn more about the Cubists, Impressionists and Surrealists? Or how technology influenced the rise of rise of Futurism? This book has been universally regarded as the best, most readable and the most provocative accounts of modern art ever written. The Shock of the New is an illustrated 100-year history of modern art, outlining modern art movements from cubism, to pop and avant-garde. Through each the thematic chapters Hughes keeps his story grounded in the history of the 20th century, demonstrating how modernism sought to describe the experience of that era and showing how for many key art movements this was a task of vital importance.
On Photography by Susan Sontag (1977)
Photography lovers, this one's for you. Susan Sontag’s On Photography is a seminal collection of essays that outline the role photography has played throughout history, and how this changed and developed in capitalist regimes during the 1970s. Sontag approaches the notion of photography with astute insight that resonates with extraordinary timeliness today. Emphasising how photography has influenced social relations, visual culture, politics, and the human psyche.
Big Bucks: The Explosion of the Art Market by Georgina Adam (2014)
Georgina Adam’s Big Bucks: The Explosion of the Art Market gives us an intimate glimpse into the recent boom of the modern and contemporary art market and how this has reshaped the business of art. Speaking about the new wealth of emerging economies in Asia and the Middle East, Adam shows how prices of art have been driven up in a market that has historically been dominated by collectors from the United States and Europe. The book is a thrilling view into the lives of the mega-wealthy and super rich, and how the art market has been reshaped by globalisation.
Contemporary Art in Asia: A Critical Reader Edited by Melissa Chiu, Benjamin Genocchio (2011)
Contemporary Art in Asia is a retrospective selection of seminal essays by theorists, curators and art historians that over the past two decades have given voice to the exponential rise of Asia’s art. The book reflects on the rise of Asian art in the 21st century, marked by the exponential rise of record-breaking sales at auction by Asian artists in recent years. Offering texts by leading figures in the field (mostly Asian), and including more than fifty illustrations in color and black and white, it covers developments in East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Together, the twenty-three texts posit an historical and pan-Asian response to the question, "What is Asian contemporary art?" Considering such topics as Asian modernism, Asian cubism, and the curating, collecting, and criticism of Asian contemporary art, this book promises to be a foundational reference for many years to come.
Great Women Artists by Rebecca Morrill (2019)
Sometimes, it’s not always about history, but rather, her story. Great Women Artists is the most extensive fully illustrated book of women ever published. With much of art history focused on male masters, this book importantly reflects and highlights female artists that were majorly overlooked and almost forgotten from history. Great Women Artists reveals a parallel yet equally engaging history of art for an age that champions a greater diversity of voices.
Double Vision: The Unerring Eye of Art World Avatars Dominique and John de Menil by William Middleton (2018)
The first and definitive biography of the celebrated collectors Dominique and John de Menil, who became one of the greatest cultural forces of the twentieth century through groundbreaking exhibits of art, artistic scholarship, the creation of innovative galleries and museums, and work with civil rights. We see the high society couple introduced to the artists in Europe and America whose works they would collect, and we see how, by the 1960s, their collection had grown to include 17,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, rare books, decorative and design objects.
The Art of Love by Kate Bryan (2019)
A brilliant read, The Art of Love tells the stories of 35 renowned couples from the art world, exploring the variously romantic, tender, challenging, passionate and tragic relationships that led to some of the most famous artworks. Author Kate Bryan gives us a glimpse into how these artists’ lives influenced and intersected one another. From Lee Miller and Man Ray, to Joseph Cornell and Yayoi Kusama, to Gilbert and George, Bryan delves into the formation, and sometimes breakdown, of each romance, documenting their highs and lows, revealing how powerful love can be in the creative process.
Artists’ Letters: Leonardo da Vinci to David Hockney by Michael Bird (2019)
Artists’ Letters is a powerful collection of 100 carefully selected letters from renowned artists from history that provide insight into their lives. Letters and notes from Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Goya, Van Gogh, Picasso, Dali, Kahlo, Warhol and Yayoi Kusama are reproduced, some of which include sketches, drawings and decorative flourishes, together with a transcript of the correspondence and some background details. Arranged thematically, it includes writings and musings on love, happiness, work, daily life, money, politics, travel and the creative process, and shows us the treasures to be found in a simple letter.
After Andy: Adventures in Warhol Land by Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni (2017)
After Andy is Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni’s insider’s account of working with legendary pop art artist Andy Warhol’s studio and Interview magazine, and explores Warhol’s impact on the art world, pop culture, society, and fashion—and how his iconic status gave rise to some of our most influential tastemakers today.
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.
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