Best Books

The current top selling contemporary art titles, in random order.

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Forgetting the Art World, by Pamela M. Lee

An intriguing book that argues that recent art is best understood as an active agent (and not just an object) of a new globalized artworld. “Lee (offers) close readings of works by artists who have come to prominence in the last two decades… the “just in time” managerial ethos of Takahashi Murakami; the production of ethereal spaces in Andreas Gursky’s images… the logic of immanent cause dramatized in Thomas Hirschhorn’s mixed-media displays; and the “pseudo-collectivism” in the contemporary practice of the Atlas Group, the Raqs Media Collective, and others…” See more > 

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Weiwei-isms, by Ai Weiwei

“A small act is worth a million thoughts.” With this collection of aphorisms, Ai Weiwei demonstrates he can create as memorably with language as he does photography and sculpture. The book is made to be carried, as if for some impromptu revolutionary purpose perhaps. See more > 

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Lives of the Artists, by Calvin Tomkins

“Examination of the lives and works of some of the big-name artists of our time, including Damien Hirst, Matthew Barney, Jeff Koons, James Turrell, Richard Serra and John Currin.” See more > 

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The Painted Word, by Tom Wolfe

A text that should be compulsory reading for artists, this book not only humorously depicts the relationship between the maker and the works’ supporters, it is the clearest exposition of the central requirement of any work to succeed: dominate over that which has been done before. 

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Defining Contemporary Artby Daniel Birnbaum et al.

“Written by eight of the art world’s leading curators, the book encompasses 200 decisive works of art from the last quarter century.” 

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The Art of Not Making: The New Artist/Artisan Relationship, by Michael Petry

“Using examples from a wide range of media, Michael Petry presents the art of over 115 contemporary artists who have one thing in common: they do not make their own work.” See more >
Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan, by Christian Rattemeyer et al.
Published to accompany the first large-scale retrospective of Alighiero Boetti’s work outside Italy in over a decade, this volume presents the most comprehensive overview of the artist’s career to date. See more >
Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture

An analysis of how marginalized artists, the ”dark matter” of the art world, are an essential part of the ecosystem and success of the elite. This book is essential for anyone interested in interventionist art, collectivism, and the political economy of the art world, and how broader creative culture feeds the mainstream with new forms and styles that undergo commodification.
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Introduction to Antiphilosophy, by Boris Groys
 

A study of the work of Benjamin, Nietzsche, Derrida and others’ attempts to antagonise standard philosophical searches towards Universal Truth. Groys draws interesting parallels with post-Duchampian ‘anti-art’, and contemporary art practice generally.

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Vitamin D2: New Perspectives in Drawing
 

The second curated volume in the Phaidon ‘D’ Drawing series.

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The Upset: Young Contemporary Art, by Robert Klanten
 

A catalogue of new artists using underground subcultures to invigorate contemporary art. Chapters include ”Lowbrow”, “Gothic”, “Realism”, “Illustration”, “Character”, “Urban Art”, “Pattern” and “Expressionism’.

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Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, by Claire Bishop
 

A searing critique of participatory art and ‘social practice’, this is the book to turn if you are tired of the phrase relational aesthetics. Bishop scrutinizes the emancipatory claims made for these projects, and calls for a less prescriptive approach to art and politics, and for more compelling, troubling and bolder forms of participatory art and criticism.

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Minimalism, by James Meyer
 

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The Value of Art: Money, Power, Beauty, by Michael Findlay
 

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Vitamin P2: New Perspectives in Painting
 

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The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art by Don Thompson
 

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The Artist’s Joke, edited by Jennifer Higgie
 

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The Global Contemporary and the Rise of New Art Worlds, by Hans Belting et al.
 

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Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art, Jennifer Doyle
 

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Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas, by Eric Fischl
 

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Henry Darger, by Klaus Biesenbach
 

Of all the many Darger books, this is the most definitive – with wide, fold out plates, source material, and a fascinating biography that reveals some of the early traumas contributing to the work.

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The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art, by Martha Buskirk
 

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You can look at subscription prices for all the following magazines here: Frieze, ArtForum, Flash Art, or specific editions of Parkett.

Or, browse more popular contemporary art books here.

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