Who read what in 2021? The art world shares its tips


Edmund de Waal, artist and author

The world by color (2021) by James Fox

“A distilled, literary and sought-after biography of color. I loved its plurality
and generosity. And what a relief to read a compelling art history.

Courtney martin © Mara Lavitt

Courtney Martin, Director, Yale Center for British Art

Our days are like whole years: a memoir with letters from Louis Kahn (2020) by Harriet Pattison

“Pattison’s take on memories productively departs from form to be a meditation on place, personality, and the vestiges of a fully lived life. I was as captivated by his prose as by the inclusions of material (letters, notes, photographs and fragments) which often constitute the invisible corpus of an archive, whether personal or institutional. [Her memoir] is a model for the field.

Chris Levine © Michael Fung

Chris Levine, artist

The cosmic serpent (1998) by Jeremy Narby

“[This book] goes to the roots of human history by tracing our genetic origins. The more you delve into our true history as a species, the more magical and divine it becomes. The ultimate creativity is life itself. “

Nora Turato Courtesy of S * an D

Nora Turato, artist

Voice and speech in the theater (2000) by J. Clifford Turner

“I have rehearsed and used this book for months. It’s a classic known in the theater and among actors, and includes exercises that are so useful. It could be very useful for artists working with language and voice.

Bruce boucher © Lewis Bush

Bruce Boucher, Director, Sir John Soane Museum

The Romance of the Ruins: The Search for Ionia, 1764 (2021) by Ian Jenkins

“This was the big exhibition at the Soane Museum last summer and the latest scientific work published by the late Ian Jenkins.
It’s a fascinating tale of an expedition sponsored by the Society of Dilettanti, encompassing the Ionian coast and Athens. The group included Nicholas Revett and the young artist William Pars, whose watercolors capture the brave New World encountered by the English in search of Homer’s Troy.

Jenny holzer Photo: Nanda Lanfranco © Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer, aartist

“Dirty confession: I haven’t read any art book.

Kaywin feldman Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

Kaywin Feldman, ddirector, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

The new woman behind the camera (2020) by Andrea Nelson

“How do you choose one from the many excellent volumes recently published by the National Gallery of Art?” As a feminist, I am delighted to distinguish The new woman behind the camera, the catalog accompanying the exhibition currently visible here [until 30 January 2022]. The book highlights pioneering female photographers from the 1920s to the 1950s who used the camera to achieve personal and financial independence while advocating for fairness and the expansion of rights. Global in scope, The new woman behind the camera re-evaluates the history of modern photography, asking us to recognize the defining role women played during this time of tremendous change. The book introduced me to many talented and courageous female photographers whose names were unknown to me but whose work is unforgettable.

Ralph rugoff © Cesare De Giglio

Ralph Rugoff, ddirector, Hayward Gallery, London

See / Saw: look at photographs (2020) by Geoff Dyer

“In this vast collection of essays, Geoff Dyer delivers bright and unexpected ideas. Addressing the work of artists ranging from August Sander and Roy DeCarava to Andreas Gursky and Dayanita Singh, Dyer’s essays are driven by his keen curiosity, extremely insightful reading of individual images, and intense engagement with broader questions concerning what the photos can tell us. on our relations with the world. Always deeply informed but never about your academic tone, this collection reveals that Dyer – for whom writing about photography is a “major side activity” – is the best British writer on the medium since John Berger. “

Catherine Wood Courtesy of Tate

Catherine Wood, ssenior curator, international art (performance), Tate Modern

Mike Kelley: Materialist Aesthetics and Memory Illusions (2020) by Laura López Paniagua

“A few years after Mike Kelley’s great traveling retrospective clearly showed his influence on the language of contemporary art, López Paniagua brings a new generation perspective to Mike Kelley’s ‘materialist aesthetic’: his refusals of what ‘he saw it as the reduction of conceptualism, or idealism, in favor of worldly materiality and the biographical voice. She delves deep into his incredible brain as it manifests through the objects and images he has created, analyzing his amalgamation of the hidden power of the cinematic imagination with repressed memory syndrome and the archetypes that shape our social roles when he has played and probed them. “

Hans Ulrich Obrist © Lukas Wassmann

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries

Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity (2016), M Archive: After the end of the world (2018) and Dub: Discovery ceremony (2020) by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

“For 12 months, I have been fascinated by this extraordinary trilogy. Each book is primarily inspired and inspired by the work of a single writer: Spread-Hortense Spillers; Archives M-Mr. Jacqui Alexandre; Dubbing—Sylvia Wynter. Gumbs’ work examines the different ways in which the theoretical and poetic treatment of the works of these writers can offer possible methods for remembering, healing, listening and living differently. Wynter herself, for example, rejected any form of universalism. I think art must take this into account, integrate with nature; relate people to the environment and be receptive to ceremonies and rituals. The trilogy has since inspired the Remember nature book the Serpentine Galleries published with Penguin and opens with Gumbs’ words: “We now have the opportunity, as a species fully in contact with one another, to unlearn and relearn our own ways of thinking and storytelling in a way that allows us to be truly in communion with our environment, as opposed to a colonialist and dominant separation from the environment. This trilogy, along with more recent work by Gumbs, Not drowned, offers fascinating perspectives on new forms of conviviality, between ourselves and our environment.

Simon Thurley, President, National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Heritage Memorial Fund

Foundations: How the Built Environment Made Twentieth-Century Britain (2020) by Sam Wetherell

“Not just a story of the main types of urban buildings of the twentieth century, but an illuminating and original story of the century itself told through its architecture and the thought behind it. Here’s everything we love and hate about the 20th century, from shopping districts to high-rise apartment buildings and business parks, all driven by its social, political and economic context.

Aaron Cezar © Tim Bowditch 2018

Aaron Cezar, Founding Director, Delfina Foundation

The ascent and ascent of the private art museum (2021) by Georgina Adam

“Georgina Adam’s book is a detailed and intelligent study of the proliferation of private museums around the world, which could be seen as projects of vanity, but, as the author reveals, make a substantial contribution to society, to local economies and the cultural landscape. “

Alexandre herman © Kailee Mandel

Alexander Herman, Deputy Director of the Institute of Art and Law

Drop: Great Britain and the Benin Bronzes (2021) by Barnaby Phillips

“For the first time ever, a comprehensive account of Benin’s famous bronzes, from their creation and their plunder by British troops to subsequent attempts at salvage. Phillips writes with ease and erudition, pointing out the many complexities that arise with each attempt to remedy this historic injustice. “