Hyperallergic’s Art Book Gift Guide

We’re not sure what we like more — giving or getting books — but we do know they make perfect presents. From monographs to memoirs and more, give the gift of the written word this holiday season with some of our favorite books about art and art history. We’ve read some truly excellent books this year about art and art history, and like any good bookworm, we love making recommendations. Read on for a list of beautiful and thought-provoking art books that we think would make wonderful additions to any bookshelf or coffee table, and take 10% off all purchases on Bookshop through January 8, 2024, with discount code HYPERHOLIDAYS23.

In Pursuit of Color: From Fungi to Fossil Fuels: Uncovering the Origins of the World’s Most Famous Dyes by Lauren MacDonald

Anthropologist and textile artist Lauren MacDonald presents an insightful history of coloring cloth by exploring the stories and processes behind some of the world’s most important dyes. Well-researched and comprehensive, this vibrant volume won’t just add a pop of color to your shelves — it’ll teach you about it, too.

Buy on Bookshop | Read the Report | Atelier Éditions, July 2023

Simone Leigh

This impressive monograph covers the past 20 years of work by critically acclaimed artist Simone Leigh, who represented the United States at the 59th Venice Biennale and subsequently became one of the first Black women to be awarded a Golden Lion, the exhibition’s highest honor. It is an essential text for fans of Leigh and anyone interested in contemporary art.

Buy on Bookshop | Delmonico Books, October 2023

The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession by Michael Finkel

Stéphane Breitwieser stole billions of dollars worth of art from museums and cathedrals across Europe, hoarding it all in his bedroom until his 2001 arrest. A gripping tale of true crime, the story also proves to be “a surprising meditation on just what it is we hope to get from art, whether we’re spending millions, visiting a museum, or loosening the screws in a display case”, says our friendly local art crime professor Erin L. Thompson.

Buy on Bookshop | Read an Interview With the Author | Knopf Publishing Group, June 2023

Jay DeFeo: Photographic Work

In 1972, Jay DeFeo wrote: “My interest in photography has always paralleled my expression as a painter.” So go beyond “The Rose” with this enigmatic monograph, which features over 150 of DeFeo’s photographic works alongside illuminating texts by Hilton Als, Judith Delfiner, Corey Keller, Justine Kurland, Dana Miller, and Catherine Wagner.

Buy on Bookshop | Read the Review | Delmonico Books, August 2023

Dacha: The Soviet Country Cottage by Fyodor Savintsev

Fyodor Savintsev’s visual compendium of Russian-Soviet dachas — roughly translated as “country homes” — is not to be missed. Educational and a feast for the eyes, the book captures these wooden architectural marvels in colorful photographs that showcase the uniqueness of the individual buildings.

Buy on Bookshop | Read the Report | Fuel, September 2023

I Will Keep My Soul by Helen Cammock

New Orleans has long been fertile ground for artistic inspiration, and not even 2019 Turner Prize winner Helen Cammock could resist its allure. Her energetic artist’s book I Will Keep My Soul breaks through the fourth wall, capturing the city’s complex essence in a static format like lightning in a bottle.

Buy on Bookshop | Read the Review | Siglio Press, April 2023

Please Wait by the Coatroom: Reconsidering Race and Identity in American Art by John Yau

Award-winning poet, art critic, and curator John Yau’s first collection comprises decades of work, including many essays first published on Hyperallergic. Introspective musings on artists and writers like Ed Clark, Patty Chang, Teju Cole, and more investigate questions of identity and shine a light on underrepresented cultural figures of color.

Buy on Bookshop | Black Sparrow Press, June 2023

The Story of Art Without Men by Katy Hessel

How many women artists throughout history do you really know? Described as a “well-researched, readable, and accessible study that presents hard truths” by Hyperallergic contributor Nageen Shaikh, art historian Katy Hessel’s book makes a great introduction for those looking to expand their knowledge beyond popular preconceived notions of art history.

Buy on Bookshop | Read the Review | W. W. Norton & Company, May 2023

Art on the Frontline: Mandate for a People’s Culture by Angela Davis with illustrations by Tschabalala Self

Angela Davis famously grappled with the role of art in social and racial liberation in her 1985 essay “Art on the Frontline.” More than 30 years later, artist Tschabalala Self responds to Davis’s words with exuberant paintings in this beautiful edition, creating a powerful, open-ended dialogue.

Buy on Bookshop | Read the Review | Walther Konig Verlag, July 2021

Stuff: Instead of a Memoir by Lucy R. Lippard

Art writer, activist, and curator Lucy R. Lippard’s latest book is an illustrated autobiography framed as an “anti-memoir.” Her snappy, often humorous writing takes readers on a journey through Conceptual Art and the Feminist Art movement in New York in the 1960s through the ’80s, the founding of artist’s book center Printed Matter and activist artists group PAD/D, and the art, landscape, culture, and communities of the Southwestern United States, where she currently resides.

Buy on Bookshop | Read an Excerpt | New Village Press, September 2023

Monsters by Claire Dederer

In this bestseller, author and critic Claire Dederer wrestles with her love of work by celebrated artists who have proven themselves to be monstrous individuals. Questions of genius, fandom, and individual responsibility abound in deeply personal essays, in which Dederer does not provide easy answers or moralizing but philosophical, empathetic musings on the intersections between the personal and the political in art and life.

Buy on Bookshop | Read the Review | Knopf Publishing Group, April 2023

Kerry James Marshall: The Complete Prints: 1976–2022

Kerry James Marshall, most famous for his paintings, has worked in wood engraving and printmaking since his youth. This newly released catalogue raisonné by critic and art historian Susan Tallman offers a complete survey of Marshall’s prints from the 1970s to the present.

Buy on Bookshop | DAP, November 2023

A Curious Herbal: Elizabeth Blackwell’s Pioneering Masterpiece of Botanical Art

Though relatively unknown today, Elizabeth Blackwell’s illustrated guide to medicinal plants was celebrated for its artistic and scientific merits when it was first published. The first modern edition of the 18th-century botanical tome rescues Blackwell’s work from obscurity, reproducing all 500 of her original plates in glorious detail.

Buy on Bookshop | Read the Review | Abbeville Press, May 2023

Guerrilla Girls: The Art of Behaving Badly

Learn about the anonymous group of masked artist-activists who have been exposing corruption in art, politics, and pop culture since the 1980s. The Guerrilla Girls’ first monograph is more than just a survey — it’s a call to arms.

Buy at the Hyperallergic Store | Read the Review | Chronicle Books, October 2020

Barkley L. Hendricks: Portraits at the Frick

Barkley L. Hendricks counted the Frick in New York City as one of his favorite museums and is now the subject of an eponymous show there. With contributions by figures like Hilton Als, Nick Cave, Mickalene Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley, the exhibition catalogue helps situate his distinctive work in the canon of portraiture alongside European artists like Rembrandt, Bronzino, van Dyck, and more.

Buy on Bookshop | Rizzoli Electa, September 2023

Wild Things Are Happening: The Art of Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are made the largely self-taught artist Maurice Sendak an enduring household name. Published in conjunction with the first major retrospective on Sendak since his death, this magnificent survey brings together sketches, storyboards, paintings, and previously unpublished work alongside critical essays and interviews to provide an in-depth look at one of the most famous children’s book writers and illustrators of all time.

Buy on Bookshop | Read the Review | Delmonico Books, September 2022

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