Gift Ideas for Art Lovers: Ten Great Art Books Published in 2021

Looking for gift ideas for art lovers in your life? Or perhaps you want to treat yourself by buying a book that will not only inspire and educate you about a particular artist, but also look great on your coffee table. Here’s a list of 10 must-see art books that were published in 2021.

The following books are not listed in any order of preference. They are all available at various bookstores and online booksellers.

Frida Kahlo: Her Universe
by Frida Kahlo (Artist), Luis Enríquez (Contributor), Gerardo Estrada (Contributor), Paulina García (Contributor), Circe Henestrosa (Contributor)

frida kahlo her universeThis book will give readers an in-depth look into Frida Kahlo’s (1907–54) world as it explores the legacy of one of the leading figures in 20th-century art. This publication includes over 300 images from the archives of the Frida Kahlo Museum and also gives readers an in-depth look at Kahlo’s distinctive wardrobe and the impressive collection of art that she assembled with her husband, Diego Rivera. Also included is a history of La Casa Azul, also known as the Blue House, that now serves as the museum’s main building. The reader will learn about her love for Mexican folk tradition as well as her complex relationship with her gender and sexuality.

Vasily Kandinsky: Around the Circle
by Vasily Kandinsky (Artist), Tracey Bashkoff (Editor), Megan Fontanella (Editor), Mark Antliff (Contributor), Patricia Leighten (Contributor), George E. Lewis (Contributor)

kandinsky-circleVasily Kandinsky (1866–1944) was one of the foremost artistic innovators of abstraction in the 20th century. Kandinsky was a major figure in European modernism and sought to liberate painting from its ties to the natural world. A series of essays explores his involvement with various avant-garde artistic communities such as the Bauhaus, as well as his travels in Europe, and his relationship with improvisation and music.  This book presents more than half of the Guggenheim Museum’s collection by Kandinsky. Included are paintings in oil and oil with sand, reverse-glass paintings, as well as woodcuts, watercolors and drawings on paper.

Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful
by Alma W. Thomas (Artist), Jonathan Frederick Walz (Editor), Seth Feman (Editor), Tiffany Barber (Contributor), Rebecca Bush (Contributor), Aruna D’Souza (Contributor)

In 1972, Alma W. Thomas (1891–1978) became the first Black woman to mount a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art. She is known for her large abstract paintings that are often filled with irregular patterns and vibrant colors. This book highlights her theatrical designs, sculpture, watercolors, and marionettes, demonstrating how Thomas’ pursuit of beauty extended to every facet of her life. Also included are essays that trace Thomas’ journey from semi-rural Georgia to international recognition. This ambitious retrospective sheds new light on Thomas’ passionate search for beauty in everyday life.

Inside Out: The Prints of Mary Cassatt
by Mary Cassatt (Artist), Shalini Le Gall (Editor), Justin McCann (Editor), Jacqueline Terrassa (Contributor), Justine De Young (Contributor)

This book explores how Mary Cassatt (1844–1926) became one of the most creative printmakers of the 19th century through her use of experimentation and innovation. Readers will learn how the artist used the medium to reflect on her own personal issues about her identity in a changing world. The prints reveal an introspective side of an American artist who was at the center of the French art world and was also a collaborator with the Impressionists Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro. In many of her works, Cassatt addresses themes of creativity, domesticity, motherhood, and fashion. This publication offers an intimate look at an American Impressionist and a groundbreaking printmaker.

Reggie Burrows Hodges
by Reggie Burrows Hodges (Artist), Hilton Als (Contributor)

reggie burrows hodgesReggie Burrows Hodges (born 1965) explores storytelling and visual metaphor by drawing inspiration from growing up in Compton, California. Hodges begins his creative process by painting a raw canvas black and then creating scenes through expressive brushwork. Hodges paints his figures with blurred faces that are devoid of identifying features in order to draw focus on their bodies and their environment. This book features a selection of works that were created between 2019 and 2020 and is a great introduction for those who wish to learn more about an artist who is being recognized as one of the great contemporary artists of the 21st century.

 

Matthew Wong: Blue View
by Matthew Wong (Artist), Julian Cox (Editor), Nancy Sparrow (Contributor), Winnie Wong (Contributor)

Although his career as an artist was brilliant but short-lived, Matthew Wong (1984–2019) was celebrated for his paintings evoking a diverse range of historical references — from Chinese calligraphy and scroll painting to Pointillism. Many of his works invite viewers into a world of imaginary nocturnal landscapes, brooding interiors and vibrant still life compositions. From monumental oils on canvas to smaller gouache and watercolor paintings, Wong’s body of work is a meditation on the many moods of the color blue. This publication brings together a number of scholarly voices who provide fresh insight about Wong’s work.

Jeff Koons: Lost in America
by Jeff Koons (Artist), Massimiliano Gioni (Editor), Sophia Al Maria (Contributor), Dodie Kazanjian (Contributor)

This volume brings together more than 60 of Jeff Koons (born 1955) most iconic sculptures and paintings along with recently completed works. Koons is best known for his work that engages with pop culture such as his famous large-scale stainless-steel sculptures of balloon animals. This book explores Koons’ art and how it relates to contemporary American culture. He received national recognition as an artist in the 1980s, and since that time, his work has been exhibited worldwide. Many of his works have been selling for astronomical prices at art auctions, often breaking auction sales records. This publication traces the cultural influences that shaped his art.

Mel D. Cole: American Protest: Photographs 2020–2021
by Mel D. Cole (Photographer), Jamie Lee Curtis (Introduction)

mel-d-cole-american-protest New York-based photographer Mel D. Cole (born 1976) is one of hip-hop’s most accomplished and celebrated photographers. In the last 20 years he has documented the music scene and nightlife, but in 2020 when George Floyd was murdered, Cole dedicated the rest of 2020 and beyond to photographing the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the country. In addition to capturing the protests in New York City, Cole also traveled to cover demonstrations in other cities such as Houston, Minneapolis and Washington, DC. The photos in this book document the powerful outpouring of the hurt, outrage, and the courage of people compelled to take action following Floyd’s brutal murder.

Kay Nielsen: An Enchanted Vision
by Kay Nielsen (Artist), Alison Luxner (Contributor), Meghan Melvin (Contributor)

kay nielson_an enchanted visionSome of the most celebrated book illustrations of the 20th century are by Danish artist Kay Nielsen (1886–1957).  The artist’s interpretations of fairy tales are known not only for their dramatic intensity but also for their intricate detail. Nielsen gained recognition in the 1920s for his book illustrations such as for Fairy Tales by Hans Andersen. Compared to many of his contemporaries, Nielsen often focused on the dramatic themes of passion and death. Later in his career, he collaborated with Walt Disney Studios on the animation film Fantasia. This book includes reproductions of original watercolors that invite viewers to enter the enchanted world of this gifted artist.

Alexis Rockman: Works on Paper
by Alexis Rockman (Artist), Todd Bradway (Editor), Helen Molesworth (Contributor), David Rimanelli (Contributor)

Alexis Rockman (born 1962) is known for his large-scale paintings that often illustrate the collision between civilization and nature. Rockman integrates elements of human history, landscape painting, and science fiction with his passionate interest in climate change. This book includes over 150 works, many of which have never before been published. Readers will also be interested to see some of his earliest watercolors from the 1980s of hybrid and mutated animals. This publication is the first comprehensive survey of Rockman’s work, documenting his accomplishments with a selection of watercolors, gouaches and oil drawings.

Tom Wawzenek
Tom Wawzenek
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