As we turn the page on 2017, we’re looking back at some of the most engaging and beautiful art coffee table books of the year.
1. Cast: Art & Objects Made Using Humanity’s Most Transformational Process by Jen Townsend and Renée Zettle-Sterling
This gorgeous tome takes a comprehensive look at casting, touching on fine art, craft, design, and everyday objects made in all manner of materials through the use of molds. With more than 800 photographs, Cast will make you newly aware of the process’s omnipresence, both today and throughout history.
2. The Apparently Marginal Activities of Marcel Duchamp by Elena Filipovic
In this unusual look at the career of the groundbreaking artist, Elena Filipovic argues that for Marcel Duchamp, his most important work wasn’t his art, but the behind-the-scenes work of art dealing, putting together exhibitions, and publicizing his work. She makes her case through many rarely seen images in this richly illustrated book.
3. Love: Contemporary Art Meets Amour by Danilo Eccher
Love is a universally recognized emotion, so it’s no surprise that it has been a timeless artistic inspiration. Here, Danilo Eccher has gathered together love-themed works by contemporary artists including Tom Wesselmann, Andy Warhol, Tracey Moffatt, and, of course, Robert Indiana, pairing them with essays by Federico Vercellone, Pierangelo Sequeri, Mattia Fumanti, and Woody Allen.
4. The Art of the Erotic by Rowan Pelling
Where there’s love, there’s often sex—an equally if not more-popular topic among artists. Phaidon explores human sexuality throughout the centuries with art historical works from everyone from Titian, Paul Cézanne, and Picasso to Andy Warhol, Anish Kapoor, and Cecily Brown.
5. Feast Your Eyes by Brittany Wright
Brittany Wright is the artist behind wright kitchen, the popular website and Instagram account featuring gorgeous photographs of vegetables and other foodstuff arranged, enticingly, by color. Her beautiful images look great on your iPhone, so imagine how impressed you’ll be to see them in a glossy hardcover book.
6. The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler by Brett Ingram
Outsider Art fans will want to meet Renaldo Kuhler (1931–2013), who for 60 years worked in secrecy, creating the fantastic world of Rocaterrania, inspired by his hometown in Rockland County, New York. His fictional kingdom—replete with its own religion, government, and language, as well as an Olympic Games, prison system, railroad lines, and richly detailed history—comes to life in this new book by Brett Ingram. Most of the expertly drafted illustrations, done in graphite, ink, acrylic, oil, gouache, and watercolors, among other mediums, are being published here for the first time.
7. Life? Or Theatre? by Charlotte Salomon
Can’t make it to Amsterdam to see the first complete exhibition of Charlotte Salomon’s magnum opus, the nearly 800-piece series “Life? Or Theatre? A Play With Music” at the Jewish Historical Museum (on view through March 25, 2018)? The next best thing is this book, featuring 1,300 color images, scholarly essays, and the mysterious letter in which Salomon claims to have murdered her grandfather, translated into English for the first time.
8. Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005–2016 by Annie Leibovitz
Featuring never-before-published photographs, Annie Leibovitz‘s new volume of work focuses on her most memorable portraits of the last 11 years. The over 150 images include shots of such luminaries as Meryl Streep, Queen Elizabeth II, and Joan Didion. (On the other hand, she’s also included a portrait of Kanye West taking a photo of Kim Kardashian taking a selfie with her baby, which may be a little too meta for some, and, odiously, Donald and Melania Trump.)
9. Gustav Klimt: Complete Paintings by Tobias G. Natter
10. Signs of Hope: Messages From Subway Therapy by Matthew “Levee” Chavez
This diminutive but still good-looking volume is tiny for a reason: It documents the small Post-It Note messages left in New York City’s subway stations in the days and weeks following the election of Donald Trump. The project, started by Matthew “Levee” Chavez, became an important means of communal catharsis, and, through the power of social media, spread a message of hope far beyond the streets of New York. The book’s photographs document the large scale of the project, which has since been staged in cities around the world, as well as individual notes from everyday people, assuring that “peace and intelligence prevails.”
11. WOMEN: Portraits, 1960–2000 by Susan Wood
Perhaps best known for her Look magazine cover featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Susan Wood has photographed some of the most iconic female figures of the 20th century. Over her more-than-40-year career, she has shot for Mad Men types in New York in the 1960s, on the front lines of the women’s liberation movement in the 1970s, and on the sets of such films as Easy Rider. In her new book, see her stunning images of the likes of Diane von Furstenberg, Martha Stewart, Nora Ephron, Alice Waters, Jayne Mansfield, and Gloria Vanderbilt.
12. Anne Collier: Women With Cameras by Anne Collier
As the name suggests, Collier’s book is a collection of found photos dating from the 1970s to the 2000s, all featuring women with cameras. Individual pictures range from the melancholic to the funny to the strange, but as a whole, the collection is a poignant reflection on the lack of power women have had, traditionally, over their own representation.
13. Darren Harvey-Regan: The Erratics by Darren Harvey-Regan
In Darren Harvey-Regan’s book The Erratics, elegant photographs depicting chunks of chalk atop a plinth are paired with a text in which the artist contemplates representational imagery, abstraction, and the function of photography. The result is a moving meditation on memory and the relationship between photography and writing.
14. Borrowed Light: Selections from the Jack Shear Collection edited by Ian Berry and Jack Shear
Bringing together over 350 photographs from the collection of photographer and curator Jack Shear—which were gifted to the Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College and made up an exhibition there in 2016—Borrowed Light is inspired by another influential collector and book: A Book of Photographs from the Collection of Sam Wagstaff from 1978. And like that previous title, it provides both a mini-survey of photography in the 20th century, as well as a glimpse into the life of the visionary person who recognized the importance and longevity of that work early on.
15. Vermeer: The Complete Works by Karl Schütz
See the complete works of Dutch Golden Age master Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675), barely known during his lifetime but now one of the world’s most sought-after painters, in this authoritative, beautifully reproduced monograph. If you love the Girl With a Pearl Earring, this is your chance to dive deeper into the artist’s oeuvre.
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