Noteworthy Art Books of 2020 for Adults and Kids

While the art scene in Chicago and other major cities closed its doors for most of 2020, numerous art books continued to be published. Here’s a list of 10 must-see art and photography books published this year. These books are a great way to provide an art fix if you miss visiting museums and galleries. This list can also act as a helpful holiday gift guide if you seek to buy a gift for the art lover in your life. Also included in this list are three books for kids that integrate a playful and educational approach to art. Please note, this is a short list at best and doesn’t include other excellent books on art published this year. The following books are not listed in any order of preference. They are all available at various bookstores and online bookseller sites. Art Books for Adults Art = Discovering Infinite Connections in Art History from The Metropolitan Museum of Art by The Metropolitan Museum of Art Art Discovering Infinite Connections in Art History from The Metropolitan Museum of Art coverDiscover 6,000 years of art history through 860 works from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Utilizing analytics from The Met's online Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, this book offers fresh, unconventional ways for readers to engage with visual culture. Besides a wealth of illustrations, there are more than 160 curatorial essays to place the works in a wider historical and cultural context. Art = Discovering Infinite Connections in Art History offers a new approach to exploring art history, presented through the lens of one of the world's leading art museums. An essential reference book for everyone interested in fine art, archaeology, anthropology, fashion, design, and photography. 50 Artists: Highlights of The Broad Collection by Joanne Heyler, Jeff Chang, Roxane Gay, Sarah Loyer, Norman Rosenthal and Ed Schad 50 Artists Highlights of The Broad Collection coverOver the last 50 years, art patrons Eli and Edythe Broad fostered public appreciation of postwar and contemporary art by making their collection accessible to other institutions around the world. The Broads' permanent collection includes works from artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Barbara Kruger, Roy Lichtenstein, Julie Mehretu, Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol, among others. Now, for the first time, highlights of their collection can be seen in book format. In this book, writers and curators give an overview of the very best of the Broads' vast collection, which helps to enrich our understanding of contemporary art. Godlis Streets by David Godlis (Photographer), Chris Stein (Afterword) and Luc Sante (Foreword) This book presents David Godlis’ best street photography from the 70s and 80s, celebrating scenes from New York’s past. For some 40 years, Godlis’ photography has been inspired by walking the streets of New York and shooting whatever catches his eye, from midnight diner patrons to commuters rushing to a subway station. Godlis is also famous for his photos of New York City’s punk scene in the 70s, capturing images of the Ramones, Patti Smith, and Blondie, as well as candid shots of club-goers at CBGB. The book is introduced with an essay by cultural critic Luc Sante and closes with an afterword by Blondie cofounder and guitarist Chris Stein. Women Artists A to Z by Melanie LaBarge (author) and Caroline Corrigan (illustrator) This beautiful picture book features a diverse group of women artists—some famous and others under-represented in the art world. There is also diverse range in the art mediums—painting, drawing, sculpture and photography. Each spread features a simple line of text encapsulating the creator's iconic work in one word, such as "D is for Dots" (Yayoi Kusama) and "S is for Spider" (Louise Bourgeois), followed by slightly longer text about the artist. This book also includes photos, biographies, and discussion questions. Some of the artists featured include: Georgia O'Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Yayoi Kusama, Dorothea Lange, and Hilma af Klint. Horace Pippin, American Modern by Anne Monahan Many art historians consider Horace Pippin (1888–1946) the most successful African-American artist of his day. In the 1930s, he taught himself how to paint and quickly earned international renown for his depictions of World War I, Black families, and historical subjects such as Abraham Lincoln, abolitionist John Brown, and scenes from the Bible. This book sheds light on how the disabled combat veteran claimed his place in the contemporary art world. Featuring more than 60 of Pippin’s paintings, this volume also includes two previously unknown artists' statements, an exhibition history, and a list of artworks drawn from new research. Korean Art from 1953: Collision, Innovation and Interaction by Yeon Shim Chung (editor), Sunjung Kim (editor), Kimberly Chung (editor) and Keith B. Wagner (editor) This is the first comprehensive survey to explore the complex history of contemporary Korean art. Starting with the armistice that divided the Korean Peninsula in 1953, this book focuses on the artistic movements and collectives that have flourished and evolved throughout Korean culture over the past seven decades and the artists who have emerged to secure a place in the international art world. Highlights include the 1950s avant-garde scene, the feminist scene in the 1970s, and the birth of the Gwangju Biennale in the 1990s. There is also an in-depth look at the lesser-known North Korean art scene. Helen Levitt: A Way of Seeing by Helen Levitt (photographer) and James Agee (Foreword) First published in 1965, Helen Levitt’s (1913-2009) collection of photographs taken on the streets of 1940s New York City has long been considered a classic. Made in collaboration with writer James Agee, who provided the book’s introduction, A Way of Seeing was published two more times with modifications during Levitt’s lifetime. This volume seeks to provide a definitive edition of the book with oversight from Levitt’s former assistant who has taken pains to include the best available prints and negatives of Levitt’s images. This edition contains all 50 original photographs in addition to several other new images that showcase Levitt’s power as a visual storyteller.  

Art Books for Children

Modern Art Explorer: Discover the Stories Behind Famous Artworks by Alice Harman (author) and Serge Bloch (illustrator) This book is a fun and illuminating guide to modern art for children. Focusing on 30 famous artworks, young readers learn the stories behind the artists and their work. Featured artists include: Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, and many more. Modern Art Explorer looks at art in a playful manner, providing children with the opportunity to understand what each piece is all about. Also worth noting are the fun illustrations by award-winning illustrator Serge Bloch. This highly entertaining book prompts children to learn how art is created and to take a closer look at the ideas within each work. Suggested grade level: 4 to 7. Flying Paintings: The Zhou Brothers: A Story of Revolution and Art by Amy Alznauer (author), ShanZuo Zhou (illustrator) and DaHuang Zhou (illustrator) In this remarkable biography, author Amy Alznauer collaborates with the Zhou brothers (ShanZuo and DaHuang) to tell the story of their unique and often difficult childhood as they pursued what seemed like an impossible dream to become artists. The setting is during the turbulence of China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1970s and tells the story of how ShanZuo and DaHuang Zhou become icons in the art world. The lyrical writing blends seamlessly with the brothers’ vibrant illustrations. This book shows how art can bring people together while also inspiring kids to follow their dreams. Suggested grade level: Kindergarten to 4th grade.   123s of Art by Sabrina Hahn This is a great children’s book that can spark a child’s creativity by featuring some of the world’s most iconic paintings. Children discover the works of Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Gustav Klimt and others. There are fun exercises such as counting the flower petals in Gauguin’s Still Life with Teapot and Fruit, learning different colors while examining Redon's Butterflies, and teaching kids shapes that are used in Sarah Ann Wilson’s Album Quilt. The author uses a fun rhyming scheme with large, colorful text that will inspire young art lovers as they learn to count to 20 by locating objects in paintings. Suggested grade level: Preschool to 1st grade.
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Thomas Wawzenek