What to read in 2022 the best new art books to look out for

What to read in 2022: the best new art books to look out for

From Beeple to Vermeer, YSL to Van Gogh — our pick of the most compelling titles coming out this year

Conceived as a diary by the founders of Studio KO, the French-Moroccan practice behind the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech, this elegant new book chronicles the 1,423 days it took to design, build and inaugurate the landmark institution devoted to the work of the legendary fashion designer.

A tribute to the creative collaboration between Saint Laurent’s partner Pierre Bergé, to whom the book is dedicated, and Studio KO, it details everything from Bergé’s first call to the practice to the opening of the museum’s doors in 2017, one month after Bergé’s death.

The volume features sketches, plans and archival photographs, as well as behind-the-scenes titbits from Saint Laurent’s inner circle, including Betty Catroux and Catherine Deneuve.

Instrumental in reviving large-format and colour photography in the 1970s, Richard Misrach is considered one of the most influential photographers of his generation. He is perhaps best known for seductive vistas of the American landscape that examine our relationship to the natural world. Since 2006, working exclusively with a digital camera, Misrach has explored the aesthetic possibilities of the negative image.

Written by Darius Himes, Christie’s international head of Photographs, this sumptuous, landscape-format volume presents 92 images from Misrach’s latest body of work, comprising landscapes and seascapes in a reversed colour spectrum.

For inspiration, Misrach looked to Ansel Adams, who compared the photographic negative to sheet music that could be interpreted in numerous ways, and to the avant-garde composer John Cage, who compiled musical scores and presented them as graphic art in his 1969 Notations.

Encapsulating the familiar in unfamiliar ways, this work is breathtakingly beautiful and demands slow, considered looking.

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  • Nicolas Party By Stéphane Aquin, Stefan Banz, Ali Subotnick and Melissa Hyde
    Publisher: Phaidon, 3 February 2022

The Swiss painter Nicolas Party is one of contemporary art’s bright young(ish) things. In November 2021, his painting Landscape  sold at Christie’s for $3,270,000, a record auction price for the artist. Now comes the publication of the 41-year-old’s first significant monograph, charting his rise from his early days as a graffiti artist to the success that followed his adoption of soft pastel in 2013 — far from the most fashionable medium in the 21st century, yet one in which Party has shown great mastery, and with which he has made his name.

In dreamy, colour-saturated landscapes, portraits and still lifes, he captures the essence of his subjects in intriguing ways, heightening their physical and emotional resonance. Among the contributors to the book (illustrated with more than 200 images) is Stéphane Aquin, director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, where Party is about to be the subject of a major exhibition. He sets out, among other things, why the artist’s star will continue to rise in the years ahead.

Featuring essays by heavyweight historians Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu, El Anatsui: The Reinvention of Sculpture  explores the sense of narrative and the raw romanticism that lie at the heart of Ghana’s most important artist. Through sculpture, installation and drawings, El Anatsui considers the legacies of colonialism and the ongoing environmental crisis in Africa.

Having moved to Nigeria in the 1970s, Anatsui became involved with the influential Nsukka group, which sought to combine indigenous art practices and modern art. He became known for his innovative use of recycled materials, from driftwood to old milk tins, most recently creating shimmering wall sculptures from bottle caps that appear to be in constant motion. The Reinvention of Sculpture  is a timely survey of this hugely important figure in contemporary African art.

The first overview dedicated to the influential Indian photographer N.V. Parekh spotlights his daring approach to studio portraiture, his diverse clientele and the temporal, geographical and cultural milieu in which he flourished. Established in 1942 in Mombasa, Parekh’s studio drew sitters of all ages and backgrounds, from East Africa and beyond, looking to express themselves in innovative ways.

Isolde Brielmaier’s book contains rarely seen images from Parekh’s photographic archive, which was acquired by the Italian poet and artist Sarenco in 2001, and extensive interviews with his clients, focusing particularly on women. With a preface by the artist Wangechi Mutu and Brielmaier’s insightful contextual analysis, I Am Sparkling  is sure to revive interest in the life and work of a historically significant but little-known photographer.

Veteran biographer Frances Spalding, known for her insightful books on the early British Modernists Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Roger Fry, turns her penetrating gaze on the interwar years. The Real and the Romantic  brings together a collection of British artists, among them Eric Ravilious, Paul Nash, Eileen Agar and Winifred Nicholson, who were fired up by the avant-garde innovations happening in modern art across the channel.

Through exhibitions, letters and interviews, Spalding reveals the excitement that abstraction and Surrealism generated in these radical painters, and how their optimism withered under the storm blast of Fascism in the late 1930s as artists turned away from international modern art towards a pastoral English Romanticism.

In a rare act of transparency for a national body of its kind, the director of Russia’s Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky, has teamed up with an English journalist to document the scandals that have beset the institution, which has survived two revolutions, two world wars and the rise and fall of Communism.

Unseemly highlights include the First Secretary of the Communist Party, Grigory Romanov, being rumoured to have used — and ruined — a great 18th-century porcelain dinner service at his daughter’s wedding; and the setting up of a short-lived and heavily criticised Hermitage satellite museum inside the Venetian casino in Las Vegas.

Most scandalous of all, however, might be the theft of 226 items of gold and silver from the Hermitage’s vaults. Their absence was only discovered when the curator in charge of their safekeeping died suddenly at her desk in 2005, under mysterious circumstances.

Last March, the art world felt a seismic shift when an unknown graphic designer named Mike Winkelmann — alias Beeple — sold an artwork for more than $69 million, the third highest price ever paid for a work by a living artist at auction, surpassing market stars such as Damien Hirst, Jasper Johns and Gerhard Richter.

Even more extraordinary was the fact that the work didn’t physically exist and was sold by Christie’s as a non-fungible token (NFT). Everydays: The First 5000 Days  was made up of 5,000 digital images of a dystopian future, which Beeple had been making and sharing online for a decade. In May, they are being published in their entirety for the first time, as a monograph. Also included is an interview with Winkelmann, in which he reflects on his new-found celebrity and how the sale of his work kick-started NFT mania.

At the end of the 15th century, Spanish conquistadors following the lead of Christopher Columbus began rapidly colonising the Americas. Their mission was threefold: glory for the crown; spreading the word of God; and plundering gold. Spain’s grip over the region lasted for more than 300 years.

This new reference book published by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art examines the rich and complex artistic traditions of the Americas during this period, as the land became part of a vast and powerful trading network that linked Europe, Asia and Africa, with goods and people flowing both in and out.

It features nearly 100 catalogue entries for Spanish American artworks in the museum’s collection, including textiles, paintings and decorative arts, and has been produced to coincide with a show of the same name at LACMA this summer.

In 2023, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam will host the largest Vermeer exhibition in history. Those wanting a sort of aperitif in the meantime could do a lot worse than to delve into this book by Aneta Georgievska-Shine of the University of Maryland. It is devoted to one of the most important themes in the Dutchman’s oeuvre: love.

For the author, this doesn’t just include the romantic undercurrent to paintings such as A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman  (in which a man listens keenly to a young woman making music). It also includes a broader definition of love, bordering on a kind of spirituality.

Vermeer’s work is sometimes seen as otherworldly, characterised as it is by gorgeous bursts of northern light into otherwise dark, Protestant interiors. According to Georgievska-Shine, this can be conceived precisely in terms of the love that the artist invested in his pictures.

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  • Van Gogh in America Edited by Jill Shaw
    Publisher: Yale University Press, 13 September 2022

Vincent van Gogh never left Europe, so the title of this new book doesn’t refer to any trip he made across the Atlantic. Rather, it considers the early reception of the artist’s work in the US. He was completely unknown there at the time of his death, and it wasn’t until 1913’s Armory Show in New York City (more than two decades later) that his art was first publicly exhibited.

Over time, the Dutchman’s reputation increased, thanks to the intervention of an ever-growing band of artists, dealers, collectors and curators — though as important a factor as any in boosting Van Gogh’s popularity was Irving Stone's bestselling 1934 novel, Lust for Life, later adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Kirk Douglas.

The publication of Van Gogh in America  marks the centenary of the first purchase of a Van Gogh painting by a US public museum: Self-Portrait (1887), by the Detroit Institute of Arts, in 1922. An exhibition to accompany the book will open at that museum in October.

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  • Women Painting Women By Andrea Karnes
    Publisher: Delmonico Books/Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth, 10 May 2022

A book that punches well above its weight, Women Painting Women  is a study of how some 50 female artists have depicted the female form over the past 60 years. While the reach is international, the geographical expanses are not wide enough to hide commonalities — all the artists are galvanised by feminism and body politics.

The book begins in the 1960s with the trailblazing African-American artists Faith Ringgold and the late Emma Amos — two artists who took on the white male patriarchy and created portraits that raised issues of race and gender. Also featured is Joan Semmel, a painter who swapped abstraction for figuration in the 1970s to challenge the way women are portrayed in the pornography industry.

Among the more recent artists to be included is the emerging French painter Apolonia Sokol, who has been vocal about her use of portraiture as a way of confronting marginalisation in society.

The book is published in association with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, where an exhibition of the same name opens in May.