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The Artling Book Club: An Introduction to Art


The Artling Book Club: An Introduction to Art
Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures

One of the most common questions we at The Artling ask gallerist and art industry experts during interviews is: how does one go about starting an art collection? More often than not, the advice given is to read up on art. However, we have come to realise that no one has really told us what exactly to read, which can be a bit confusing for someone just getting their first taste of the world of art - and with all the books out there, rather intimidating. Hence, for our first article in The Artling Book Club series, we are featuring some of our top picks for those who either want to gain a better understanding of the history of art, or how to look at art, or perhaps want to know why some art is worth millions, or simply want an encyclopaedia on art - we've got you all covered!

‘The Story of Art’ by E H Gombrich

First published in 1950, ‘The Story of Art’ is one of the seminal texts on art history, and till today this book still remains one of the most-read texts on art. Gombrich eschews too many technical terms and complex theories, making ‘The Story of Art’ a relatively easy read. Some people have criticized this book for promoting the notions of a largely male and white artistic canon (i.e. works of art and artists that are considered to be of the highest calibre), but it is a good place to start.

‘Ways of Seeing’ by John Berger

‘Ways of Seeing’ is one of the most useful books in this list, having multiple cross-disciplinary applications. Originally a BBC television series, this book touches upon the fundamental act of looking, and how we interpret visual images, which includes paintings but also advertisements. A great read for burgeoning art enthusiasts, as well as media and communication students.

‘Seven Days in the Art World’ by Sarah Thornton

If you ever wanted to navigate the complex network of the art industry, Sarah Thornton would be your Ariadne. In each chapter, she shadows a different player in the art world, producing interesting observations that make for an entertaining and enlightening read!

‘The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art’ by Don Thompson

Described on as a “’Freakonomics’ approach to the economics and psychology of the contemporary art world”, ‘The $12 Million Stuffed Shark’ focuses on how art works can go for such astronomical prices. The book focuses on the primary and secondary market (and their complex relationship), explaining many of the systems in place that affect art prices.This book is at once revealing and a pleasure to read.

‘Art of the 20th Century’ by Ingo F. Walther

‘Art of the 20th Century’ functions more as an encyclopedic guide to the artistic mediums and movements that emerged in the 20th Century. Divided into various thematic chapters, this immense undertaking explains the various movements that defined the 20th Century, juxtaposing various works and movements against each other. An essential compendium for any budding art enthusiast.



‘The Books that Shaped Art History: From Gombrich and Greenberg to Alpers and Krauss’ by John-Paul Stonard

For those who feel that the above recommendations are child’s play and want to hit the hard stuff, this book is a great way to point you in the right direction as you embark on your quest to answer the elusive question of ‘what is art?’. This book provides an overview of some of the most seminal texts that have shaped the way we look at and understand art history; from Clement Greenberg’s ‘Art and Culture’ to Rosalind Krauss’s ‘The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths’, which introduced structuralist and post-structuralist philosophy into art historical study. Sit back and enjoy the feeling of having your mind completely blown.



For more books on art, check out our Bookstore here.

Any views or opinions in the interview are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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