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

4. “100 Artists' Manifestos”

Compiled by Alex Danchev, this collection of 100 manifestos from the last 100 years provides an insight into various ideological movements which have had a strong influence on artistic life and growth (from Futurism and Dadaism to Communism and Cannibalism!).

The publication is an intense one. Passion, a deep self-confidence and belief in art’s power to change the future can be felt in its pages. Among the revolutionary-minded authors of the manifestos are such names as Wassily Kandinsky, Wyndham Lewis, Claes Oldenburg, Derek Jarman, Gilbert & George, Rem Koolhaas, Werner Herzog, Takashi Murakami and Billy Childish. This work of reference also acts as a compact reminder of the deep impact of manifestos on the existence of countless works of art and cultural monuments. This book is a must for the library of anyone interested in cultural history. Published by Penguin

5. “Defining Contemporary Art: 25 Years in 200 Pivotal Artworks”

Defining Contemporary Art reflects the contemporary art movement through the subjective vision of the mighty curators of the world, while trying to avoid conventional historical comparisons. The roles of the eight well-known art trend leaders are taken by Daniel Birnbaum, Cornelia Butler, Suzanne Cotter, Bice Curiger, Okwui Enzwezor, Massimiliano Gioni, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Bob Nickas. The task put to each of them, as well as the overall content of the book, seem strategic and logical: to make a selection of 25 projects, or more specifically, one work from each year which changed the course of art and has already become a significant point of reference in time. The resulting collection of 200 individual pieces includes both well-known and less familiar works, which testifies to the unique nature of contemporary art. It is a pleasure to see the Latvian-American artist Vija Celmiņš among the important artists dealt with in the volume. Published by Phaidon Press

6. “Ai Weiwei's Blog: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006–2009”

Every year, ArtReview magazine publishes a list of the most powerful figures in the art world – the Power 100. This year, the title of most powerful has been awarded to scandalous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, beating dealers Larry Gagosian and Hans Ulrich Obrist who fought for the top spots last year. Ai Weiwei’s sunflower seed project in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall in London last year made the artist a superstar in terms of the number of followers who continue to turn any critical statement by Weiwei into a global declaration. The courage to criticize the Chinese government’s actions and decisions combined with a newly acquired international audience are understood as the true cause of April’s events – the artist’s arrest, 81 days imprisonment and a charge of US $ 2 million in tax debt. 

In support of Weiwei’s position on human rights and freedom of expression, the new book from The MIT Press is a compilation of the artist’s deleted blog entries from 2009. This year also saw the release of Hans Ulrich Obrist’s book Ai Weiwei Speaks with Hans Ulrich Obrist, part of the curator’s popular interview series (published by Penguin). For a deeper insight into the topic, consider Art & Agenda: Political Art and Activism, a new volume released by the  Gestalten in April of this year. >>