Intro to the Art World: A Beginner’s Reading List, AFC Commenter Edition

by Paddy Johnson on June 11, 2013 · 0 comments Resources

Last month we published a short list of art books I thought provided a great introduction to the art world. This month, we publish the additions to this list suggested by our commenters. Commenter highlights below:


“Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars
 is a super subjective, enjoyable take on some key moments in Western Art History. Of course, she makes outrageous claims and makes me crazy, but she’s Camille Paglia and I’d want my money back otherwise.

Steve Martin’s “An Object of Beauty“ is similar to “Seven Days but I liked it better. It fails the Bechdel Test but it has colour illustrations and there are some lovely moments of enthusiastic art interpretation.” —Professor and Scholar Sally McKay

It’s worth noting, that unlike “Seven Days”, “Object of Beauty” is a work of fiction. It tracks the rise of Lacey Yeager, a young and ambitious art dealer who will do whatever it takes to advance in the world of the high-end art trade in New York City. The novel makes our list because of its remarkably accurate depiction of the art world, and relevant contemporary themes. In the words of Publisher’s Weekly, “This book is about the absence of a moral compass, not just in the life of an adventuress but for an entire era.”

Chris Kraus’ “Where Art Belongs gets a recommendation thanks to Facebook commenter Biggie Daves (and New York Times art critic Holland Cotter). Kraus, who is known for her exciting and jargon-less prose, focuses on the last decade of art-making by artists using lived time as material. A beautiful bit of description from the MIT Press overview: “Chronicling the sometimes doomed but persistently heroic efforts of small groups of artists to reclaim public space and time, ‘Where Art Belongs’ describes the trend towards collectivity manifested in the visual art world during the past decade, and the small forms of resistance to digital disembodiment and the hegemony of the entertainment/media/culture industry. For all its faults, Kraus argues, the art world remains the last frontier for the desire to live differently.”

And finally, “Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by Donald Bayles and Ted Orland gets a recommendation thanks to artist, educator and AFC friend, John Tomlinson. The book provides a view into the world of art as experienced by artists themselves, and is included just for that. It’s worth mentioning, though, that unlike the other titles on this list, this book isn’t general interest; it’s a book by artists for artists. It’s an important addition to our original post, which did not include any work written by artists.

A Beginner’s Reading List ReduxRobert Grand re-ups Contemporary Art: A Very Short Introduction, which was published in our original list, noting that it was republished as one of Oxford’s Very Short Introductions. We re-recommend this book. 

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