8 Art Books You Should Read This Summer

July 20, 2019

The summer fun should definitely include some reading, so why not read about art?

This is why we prepared some exciting book suggestions that should surely be on your list. The selection is diverse, from insights into the inner workings of the chaotic art world, surveys of exciting periods in art history and lives and careers of seminal artists to explorations of the impact of larger social movements on the world of art. Many of the books have been published on the occasion of the exhibitions still taking place, so be sure to visit those if you have a chance. For more suggestions, be sure to check out our lists of art history books, urban art books and photobooks.

Featured image: Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art by Mary Gabriel.

Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art

Art dealers are the ones that can make and break careers and fortunes. The meteoric rise of the international juggernaut that is the contemporary art market is driven by these tastemakers who back emerging artists and steer them to success, often to see them picked off by a rival.

Written by Michael ShnayersonBoom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art charts a definitive history of the so-called mega dealers such as Larry Gagosian, David Zwirner, Arne and Marc Glimcher, Iwan Wirth, Irving Blum and Gavin Brown, who worked with the greatest artists of their times. Beginning in the 1940s, Shnayerson traces a move from connoisseurship to commerce, arguing that the arc of the art market in the late 20th and early 21st centuries has been yanked away from art and toward the market.

Art after Stonewall, 1969-1989

New York's Stonewall riots of 1969 saw members of the LGBTQ community clash with police in what's widely known as the catalyst for the modern gay rights movement. Putting gay rights on the map for the first time, Stonewall altered the course of history.

Art after Stonewall, 1969-1989 by Jonathan Weinberg, published on the occasion of the exhibition by the same name at the Grey Art Gallery, examines the impact of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender civil rights movement on the art world. A visual history of twenty years in American queer life, the book brings together more than 200 works by openly LGBT artists like Nan Goldin, Harmony Hammond, Lyle Ashton Harris, Greer Lankton, Glenn Ligon, Robert Mapplethorpe, Catherine Opie, and Andy Warhol, as well as the practices of such artists as Diane Arbus, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Karen Finley in terms of their engagement with queer subcultures. Cutting across media, the book tells the stories behind these artists' work.

Ninth Street Women

Written by Mary GabrielNinth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art shines a new light on New York's post-war art scene and the illustrious group of female artists who were a part of it.

The book traces the intersecting lives and careers of Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler, artists who were part of the male-dominated world of twentieth-century abstract painting. A fascinating, hyper-detailed portrait of the post-war avant-garde art scene in New York, the book paints vibrant portraits of its characters, full of personal struggles, creative genius, and romantic dramas. Gabriel explores the rich story of these five women whose art drove a revolution in modern art.

Landscape Painting Now: From Pop Abstraction to New Romanticism

A global survey of landscape painting in the 21st century, Landscape Painting Now: From Pop Abstraction to New Romanticism examines a traditional genre which has never felt as vital as it does today. Written by Barry Schwabsky, the book delivers a global and multi-generational perspective on what may be the most malleable of painting genres.

Accompanied by Schwabsky's writing, which weaves throughout the book and traces the history of landscape painting from its origins in Eastern and Western art, through its transformation in the 20th century, the book brings together the works of more than eighty outstanding contemporary artists, including Jules de BalincourtPeter DoigApril GornikDavid HockneyAlex Katz, Anselm KieferJulie Mehretu, and Wayne Thiebaud, among others.

Seven Days in the Art World

In this vivid "ethnography", Sarah Thornton brings us the account of seven disparate days spent in the excessive and increasingly loopy world of contemporary art. Visiting an auction and a biennale, a prize giving, an art fair, an artist's studio and several art magazines, Thornton explores the dynamics of creativity, taste, status, money, and the search for meaning in life. Seven Days in the Art World aims to provide an insider guide to the shadowy types who make, market, sell and buy art.

Picasso: Blue and Rose Periods

Between 1900 and 1904, Pablo Picasso painted essentially monochromatic paintings in shades of blue and blue-green, only occasionally warmed by other colors. The first major stage of the artist’s work, it came to be known as the famous Blue Period. It was followed by his Rose Period, a series of works dominated by cheerful orange and pink hues.

Published on the occasion of the most ambitious exhibition ever staged by the Fondation Beyeler, Picasso: Blue and Rose Periods examines these masterpieces created between 1901 and 1906. Reflecting his experience of relative poverty and instability, the works from the Blue Period feature beggars, street urchins, the frail and the blind, while the Rose Period saw him moving to depictions of circus performers and harlequins. However, both of these periods are imbued with a universal appeal and poignancy, touching on life, love, sexuality, fate and death.

The Renaissance Nude

A pivotal time for the nude in Western art, the 15th and 16th centuries brought the human body to the forefront of artistic innovation due to a renewed interested in ancient Greek and Roman art. Artists began copying from classical models, experimenting with naturalistic approaches, as well as exploring new, non-religious subject matter.

Reflecting this prolific era when Europe looked to both the classical past and a global future, The Renaissance Nude accompanies the exhibition of the same name and brings together more than 250 artworks by the greatest masters of the Renaissance, such as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Martin Schongauer, Donatello, Raphael, and Giorgione, but also names that deserve to be known better. Spanning paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, and book illustrations, the publication offers an insight into a visual tradition that became central to European art, which still resonates with artists and audiences today.

Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice

A notable exponent of the Venetian school and one of Renaissance Italy’s greatest painters, Tintoretto produced art characterized by daring inventiveness in both handling and composition. He was admired for his dramatic treatments of both sacred and secular subjects and bold and expressive brushwork.

Published on the occasion of the exhibition celebrating the 500th anniversary of the painter's birth, Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice brings together more than forty of Tintoretto's paintings, including many large-scale pieces that convey the breadth and power of his narrative works, along with a sample of his finest drawings. An international group of scholars led by Robert Echols and Frederick Ilchman, provide a new more accurate understanding of Tintoretto’s oeuvre and chronology.