Here’s a sampling of books published on the the topic in the last year and recommended by our writers, ranging from a delightful romp through the public works of Paris to the serious issue of censorship and the forms it takes in today’s art world.
Plenty of books in between, too, including the role of the art museum in contemporary society and reappraisals of unsung figures of art history, plus several works of fiction inspired by the art world. Add to that a tome by one of Artnet News’s own, Ben Davis, and you’ll have no shortage of material to dig into during the holidays and beyond. Happy reading!
Museums and Wealth: The Politics of Contemporary Art Collections
By Nizan Shaked
In this fascinating and scholarly book, Shaked, professor of Contemporary Art History, Museum, and Curatorial Studies at California State University Long Beach, offers something like a unified theory of what ails museums today. Carefully surveying the power structures that have formed the modern museum “from the Medici to MoMA,” she argues that reforms within the museum are fatally hobbled by the unequal distribution of wealth that creates a patron class in the first place. Whether or not her contention that efforts towards diversifying museum collections are completely doomed by this fact is totally true, Shaked’s book is very valuable in taking the conversation beyond the purely moralistic place that it seems currently struck, to help think about “structural” change in a way that uses the word as more than just a buzzword. Museums and Wealth should be the starting point for discussions about the problems of the museum going forward.
Jo van Gogh-Bonger: The Woman Who Made Vincent Famous
By Hans Luijten
You know that old saying, behind every great man is a great woman? This incredibly granular account of the life of Jo van Gogh-Bonger finally gives her the credit she deserves for tirelessly promoting the work of her brother-in-law Vincent van Gogh, helping transform him from a misunderstood failure into perhaps the world’s most famous artist. That she took on this lifelong task as a tribute to her late husband and great love, Theo—and succeeded as a woman working in a previously unfamiliar field—makes the story all the more inspiring.
Nonconformers: A New History of Self-Taught Artists
By Lisa Slominski
What is an “outsider artist” anyway? According to author Lisa Slominski, it is a designation that encompasses a wide swath of individuals: people with disabilities, people of color, and women artists—all of whom have come up against the gatekeepers of cultural relevancy at some time or another. In so many cases, that has proved useful in the long run, as so-called “outsider” or “self-taught” artists …….