12 best contemporary art books: a guide
From maverick memoirs to topical tomes, turn over a new leaf with the Wallpaper* arts desk’s 12 favourite new and upcoming art books for 2022
When the pandemic arrived, art galleries shut, but books were opened. Physical book sales reached an eight-year high in 2020, so contrary to popular pessimism, print still very much has a pulse.
From maverick monographs and topical tomes to coffee table icebreakers, these are the best art books for 2022
The top 12 art books for 2022
A Brief History of Protest Art, by Aindrea Emelife
Art and protest have long been entwined. Throughout history, art has been used as a platform to challenge, critique, and draw attention to injustice and inequality. In A Brief History of Protest Art from Tate Publishing, curator and art historian Aindrea Emelife spotlights 50 artists who have confronted the most pressing social and political issues of their time from Picasso (Guernica), through to those responding to war, gender inequalities, the AIDS epidemic, LGBTQ+ rights, the Black Lives Matter movement and the climate crisis. As Emelife says: ‘Art lives forever and I hope this book becomes a reminder and rallying call to arms to keep going – to keep fighting, keep striving. Protest art makes apparent the deep inequities, injustices and truths of our time. It is powerful artillery.’ Featured artists include Ai Weiwei, Kara Walker, Jeremy Deller, Yoko Ono, Barbara Kruger and Theaster Gates. £15, available from 3 March 2022.
Call and Response, by Christian Marclay and Steve Beresford
Swiss artist Christian Marclay has a knack for finding music and sound in obscure places. In 2020, as the pandemic silenced London, Marclay began photographing the empty city streets and imagining music in the muted landscape. After capturing an image of an iron gate adorned with decorative white balls that evoked a musical score, he sent it to his friend, composer Steve Beresford. This sparked a virtual collaborative project translating visual moments of London into music, now documented in an elegant yet haunting forthcoming book: Call and Response, published by Siglio. Featuring 20 of Marclay’s photographs paired with 20 of Beresford’s scores, this is an audiovisual record of an extraordinary time. $29.95, available from 17 May 2022.
Marcel Duchamp means different things to different people. To some, he fathered the readymade, to Willem de Kooning in 1951, he was a ‘one-man movement’. Published in 1959, the book Marcel Duchamp became the bible of the artist’s work. It was the result of years of Duchamp’s collaboration with its author, art historian and critic Robert Lebel, and offered a comprehensive and penetrating study of the artist: from his early painting, subsequent farewell to painting, to his fixation on the fetish. Marcel Duchamp went out of print for 60 years, but the Grove Press English edition is now back in circulation with Hauser & Wirth Publishers’ authorised facsimile.
The Women Who Changed Art Forever: Feminist Art – The Graphic Novel
In 1971, art historian Linda Nochlin asked, ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’ The issue, she wrote, ‘lies not in our stars, our hormones, our menstrual cycles, or our empty internal spaces, but in our institutions and our education’. There had been great women artists, they had just been denied the opportunity of greatness. The Women Who Changed Art Forever by Valentina Grande and Eva Rosetti tells the story of four trailblazers of feminist art: Judy Chicago, Faith Ringgold, Ana Mendieta and the Guerrilla Girls. The fight for equality is a long road. The graphic novel narrates this unfinished story with vibrance and accessibility through those that paved, and continue to pave, the way to a more equal art world.
The Hotel by Sophie Calle
Privacy. These days, it’s everywhere, and nowhere. In 1981, Sophie Calle took a job as a chambermaid to breach it, for art. At the Hotel C in Venice, the French artist snuck a camera and tape recorder into her mop bucket. As she cleaned, she voyeuristically and methodically documented the personal belongings of guests; their bedding, books, postcards, and toiletries. She rifled through rubbish bins, diary entries, letters and family photographs. She eavesdropped on arguments and sex and sprayed herself with perfume that wasn’t hers. The Hotel, published for the first time as a standalone book in English, is a provocative examination of privacy, lack thereof, and what fragmented possessions might reveal about our lives – all told through belongings that were never meant for Calle, or us, to see.
1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, by Ai Weiwei
Experiencing the art of Ai Weiwei is like biting into a scorpion. Plenty of sting, searingly sharp, and hard to swallow. And so it should be. The Chinese artist has dedicated his life, career and freedom to exploring some of the most pertinent issues facing humanity. His long-awaited memoir, 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, is a century-long epic tale of China narrated through his own life and the legacy of his father, the celebrated poet Ai Qing, who was banned from writing and subjected to hard labour for 20 years. As Ai told us in an interview this year: ‘I [decided] to write a book about what was happening, so my son knew his grandfather and his father, from their own words.’
From the Sculptor’s Studio: Conversations with 20 Seminal Artists, by Ina Cole
There’s a majestic quality to the artist’s studio; a sense of potential in the often-private to-and-fro of an artist as they wrestle with concept, form and execution. From the Sculptor’s Studio, published by Laurence King, is a record of where the magic happens. Writer Ina Cole conducted conversations with 20 seminal sculptors, exploring the artists’ lives and work in their own words, in their own environments. The book features 165 images of studios and artworks, alongside portraits of each sculptor, which includes Phyllida Barlow, Anthony Caro, Antony Gormley, Mona Hatoum, Anish Kapoor, Richard Long, David Nash, Cornelia Parker, Marc Quinn, Eva Rothschild and Rachel Whiteread.
Photography Now, by Charlotte Jansen
For photographers in the 20th century, things were more straightforward. Whole genres could be sparked by a single photograph of something the world had never seen. These days, standing out in an image-saturated post-Instagram world is tough. In this comprehensive, authoritative and international book, writer and longtime Wallpaper* contributor Charlotte Jansen surveys the 50 most significant photographers working today, with high-quality reproductions of their work, commentary and interviews. Artists featured include Nan Goldin, Wolfgang Tillmans, Hassan Hajjaj, Andreas Gursky, Juno Calypso, Zanele Muholi, Shirin Neshat, Catherine Opie, Martin Parr, Cindy Sherman, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Juergen Teller. It’s an important book in an age when society faces the increasingly heavy social responsibilities of photography, and visual communication more broadly.
Wonderland, by Annie Lebowitz
Wonderland is the first book to chronicle Annie Leibovitz’s encounters with fashion. From her early work at Rolling Stone in the 1970s to the present day. More than 340 photographs spanning five decades chart her distinctive style, sharp eye and knack for transforming her subjects into cultural icons. Published by Phaidon, Wonderland documents Leibovitz’s most ambitious fashion shoots – including looks by designers such Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent, and Rei Kawakubo. These sit alongside portraits of everyone from Karl Lagerfeld to Serena Williams, Nancy Pelosi to Queen Elizabeth II, Lady Gaga, to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Peter Blake: Collage
Throughout his seven-decade career – which included co-designing The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album sleeve – artist Peter Blake has redefined what collage can be: a collision of media, genre, time and space. Peter Blake: Collage reveals the British artist’s knack for extracting fragments of banal reality, and transforming them into compositions that could only exist in imagination. It also captures the artist’s flair for fusing seemingly disparate, distinct items, figures and scenes into one cohesive artwork, one that has cemented his status as the ‘Godfather of British pop art’. As old school friend David Hockney notes in the book’s foreword: ‘Peter understands that collage places one time on top of another’.
The Soul of a Nation Reader: Writings by and about Black American Artists, 1960-1980
What is ‘Black art’? This question was often asked between 1960 and 1980 by the artists, curators and critics living through social and political turbulence in America. This was a period when civil rights became law, but civil rights in practice was another story entirely. Artists documented segregation, appealed for integration, and staged a multifaceted cultural revolution. Conceived as a reader linked to the 2017 Tate show ‘Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power’, the book highlights the vital and transformative contributions of Black artists over two decades. Edited by exhibition curator Mark Godfrey and writer Allie Biswas with afterword by Zoé Whitley, the anthology offers 200 texts and visual records from those who confronted the sociopolitical landscape of their time. Half a century later, their impact on contemporary art and activism remains palpable.
The Kitchen Studio: Culinary Creations by Artists
As we know from our long-running Artist’s Palate series, creativity does not stop at the studio door; for many, it extends to the kitchen. This is the subject of Phaidon’s The Kitchen Studio: Culinary Creations by Artists, in which 70 leading contemporary artists present 100 recipes, illustrated with personal photographs, paintings, collages, sketches, iPhone snaps, and illustrations. Among the features – which include contributions by Subodh Gupta, Jeppe Hein, Carsten Höller, Laure Provost, Kehinde Wiley, Ragnar Kjartansson, Philippe Parreno, and Rirkrit Tiravanija – we were excited to find Charles Gaines’ Southern-Style Candied Yams, a recipe originally commissioned for the March 2021 issue of Wallpaper*.