Summer’s Best Art Books

Our guide to the best beach reads for those with brains.

The time to read a book is when you have—or can carve out—the time. Some of these titles were issued back when things were busy (Miami Basel, anyone?). Some are newly released. Good day, good evening, and good reading!

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The Bride and the Bachelors, by Calvin Tomkins (Gagosian Gallery).
Photo: Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, photography by Robert McKeever.

Larry and his crew have updated Tomkins’s classic 1965 collection of articles about avant-garde artists. Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Jean Tinguely, Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, and Jasper Johns are the ones you must understand. Gagosian has issued the title as both a hardcover book and an e-book. Index-lovers, this could make your day.

Georgina Adam-Big Bucks

Big Bucks: The Explosion of the Art Market in the 21st Century, by Georgina Adam (Lund Humphries Publishers Ltd.)

The story of the art market, framed with intelligence and precision. Perfect for your next flight to Hong Kong.

Being Cultured: In Defence of Discrimination, by Angus Kennedy (Imprint Academic).  Do you bristle at the idea of everybody being a winner? This book’s for you. And maybe Clement Greenberg.

Being Cultured: In Defence of Discrimination, by Angus Kennedy (Imprint Academic).

Do you bristle at the idea of everybody being a winner? This book’s for you. And maybe Clement Greenberg.

Alex Webb and  Rebecca Norris Webb: Memory City

Memory City: The Fading Days of Film, by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb (Thames & Hudson).

Once upon a time, the city of Rochester, New York, was synonymous with the words “Eastman Kodak.” That was before the company declared bankruptcy in 2012.

The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History, by James Hall. (Thames & Hudson).

Humanity, view thyself.

alice-harris-blow-me-a-kiss

Blow Me A Kiss, by Alice Harris (powerHouse Books).

Do themed books such as this smack of the marketing department? Possibly, reader, but you have permission to give it a whirl nonetheless.

Pablo Picasso by Christian Zervos, Catalogue of Works, 1895–1972 (33 volumes, Editions Cahiers D’art).

First published between 1932 and 1978, this revised edition of “The Zervos” has 16,000 images of paintings and drawings. Cost: $20,000. Alert your local research library.

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Lucian Freud: Eyes Wide Open, by Phoebe Hoban (Amazon/New Harvest).

Biographer Hoban told Art in America, “Freud pushed the portrait into another realm. . . . He didn’t want the painting to be like the person, he wanted the painting to be the person.”

toilet-paper-issue-9

Toilet Paper: Issue 9 (Damiani).

True, it’s not a book. But it is 40 pages of fun.
Issue 10 is supposed to set down August 31.

Black Transparency. The Right to Know in the Age of Mass Surveillance

Black Transparency: The Right to Know in the Age of Mass Surveillance (Sternberg Press).

Remember privacy? I do, but I’m also old enough to remember civil liberties and the days before hydrofracking. Discuss this collection over tea with Jill Magid (she of self-surveillance).

The Colors of the New World: Artists, Materials, and the Creation of the Florentine Codex

The Colors of the New World: Artists, Materials, and the Creation of the Florentine Codex, by Diana Magaloni Kerpel (Getty Research Institute).

Read this to inspire you to begin teaching color to very young children.

The-Miniaturist-Jessie-Burton

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (Ecco).

Finally, there should always be one work of fiction on anybody’s summer list. People in the art world tend to like Lampedusa’s The Leopard, and probably at least two people in the art world would recommend the 1926 experimental novel The Eater of Darkness, by Robert M. Coates (he is the art critic credited with coining the term Abstract Expressionism for The New Yorker back in 1946). This summer you might just have to read The Miniaturist, which, between a doll’s house, the tensions wrought by puritanical folks, and a backdrop of 17th-century Amsterdam, sounds like a real reason to hit the beach. And not rise until sundown.

[All images are courtesy of the publishers, with the exception of Pablo Picasso by Christian Zervos, which is courtesy of Sotheby’s.]


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