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Fragment from cover of “Frozen Dreams: Contemporary Art From Russia”

TOP 10 Art Books 2011 0

Elīna Zuzāne

Creating a selection of art books is an incredibly difficult task. There are many related categories taking refuge under the keyword ‘art’ – history, art movements, works by artists, exhibition albums, and a wide range of other sections. Which would be the most objective selection criteria? I made my choice on the basis of intuition, as well by evaluating the year’s headlines and future perspectives. The selection consists of a set of very diverse books, suitable for a wide audience and including the catalogues of cutting-edge artists, significant works of art, and the achievements of gifted professionals, as well as an insight into art theory.

A year can be measured in different ways – through work accomplished, objectives achieved and even by new books published. Each one of us has their own individual rating scale. And just as every December is a time for looking back on the most significant moments of the months past, so this year has also left behind a grand array of art books which are worth becoming more familiar with!

1. “The Art Museum”

The Art Museum, a publication 10 years in the making that holds a sprawling 1000 pages and 2700 images of works of art, can clearly be considered the most impressive volume of art history so far, and one of the year’s biggest surprises. A glance at the book leaves no doubt that this serious collection really does live up to the status of a museum. Not in vain does this volume, like other editions of its size, go by the name of a coffee table book - a strong surface is certainly needed to leaf through the major intersections of art history. The chronological breakdown of the book takes it course steadily and with great thought to continuity, beginning with historical cave paintings and ending with examples of contemporary art and the shining achievements of present-day artists. Although the book mainly sticks to a format of listing important facts, the splendid collection of images interspersed with curators’ notes provides enjoyment and refreshes the academic tone. A true asset! Although the book takes up a significant amount of space, it will always garner admiration and respect. Published by Phaidon Press

2. “The Art Prophets: The Artists, Dealers and Tastemakers Who Shook The World”

In his newest publication, art dealer, collector and intriguing author of the I Bought Andy Warhol and I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon) books Richard Polsky talks about the prophets of significant art trends. Artists do not always succeed in proving their skill to the world, and recognized artists have not necessarily achieved their fame on their own. It is often useful to have somebody with the ability of triggering a course of events. This is a story of individuals who shook the art world, of the ability to spot talent before others notice it, and of great self-confidence and determination. The book is divided into categories of contemporary art, and at the beginning of each chapter the reader is introduced to an innovator within the specific movement who set the scene for future developments. This time, the author has taken on the role of narrator, keeping his own adventures in the art world to himself (with one exception). However, The Art Prophets – with or without its sitcom-worthy anecdotes – is certainly an interesting read for both dealers and artists, as it demonstrates the mutual interdependence of both roles. Published by Other Press

3. “Art of the Deal: Contemporary Art in a Global Financial Market”

Although art is fundamentally of a regional character, the influence of the era of globalization has brought dramatic changes in terms of both people’s purchasing power and motivation. While collecting used to be based on admiration for an artist’s visual achievements, now a desire for calculated purchases and favourable investments can be felt, leaving the aesthetical values of a work of art forgotten.

In his new book, director of The Armory Show art fair and faculty member of the Sotheby’s Institute of Art Noah Horowitz exposes the unflattering details of the art market, related to artists’ desire to present themselves as a brand in order to sell their work. Art of the Deal focuses on both the positive and negative angles of contemporary art, often imperceptible when glancing through the labyrinths of astronomical prices. This is a serious piece of research, full of noteworthy examples of theory and practice, and it offers an in-depth assessment of the current market situation. Numerous clarifications of cause and effect weave through the book, opening up the horizon for a deeper analysis and future opportunities. Although the book is an excellent source for gaining a deeper understanding of the current art market, the reader must be prepared for a quite a complex style of writing. Published by Princeton  Princeton University Press >>