ART & DESIGN

From Kim Gordon to Gay Talese, the Ten Best Art Books of 2015

Plus Marilyn Minter and a few other volumes to round out your coffee table.


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“Peter Schlesinger: A Photographic Memory” (Damiani)

A comfortable, worn chic resides in Schlesinger’s photographic memoir of the ’60s and ‘70s. Look! There’s Cecil Beaton and David Hockney in the garden; Amanda Lear on the terrace, her hair asunder; Manolo Blahnik at the barber. It’s all very glamorous, and enviably carefree.

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“Kim Gordon: Girl in a Band” (Faber). The title is a little misleading: Gordon might be famous as the bassist in Sonic Youth, but it’s clear from the get-go that her story is about her striving to be an artist. Like Patti Smith, she arrived at music almost by happenstance.

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“Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty” (Gregory R. Miller)

Grotesque and glam, Minter’s art has always managed to wring out the seamier side of beauty like no one else’s. This book represents the ne plus ultra of that pursuit.

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“The English Garden,” by Jim Lewis and Cecily Brown (Karma)

Done over the last decade, Brown’s 29 small abstract paintings never sprouted into narrative until her friend the writer Jim Lewis erected a fiction trellis for them to climb. The landscaped short story he came up with, illustrated by Brown’s paintings, make a minor and enchanting art fable.

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“Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” by Gay Talese and Phil Stern (Taschen)

Talese’s New Journalism-defining profile of Sinatra, in which he is repeatedly (and amusingly) denied an interview, has long been part of the canon, but it gets an irony-heavy rebirth in this beautiful limited edition with pictures by Phil Stern, one of the only photographers allowed into Sinatra’s inner sanctum.

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“Raymond Pettibon: Surfers 1985 – 2015” (David Zwirner Books)

The artist’s ink drawings and murals of surfers at first look to be sunny escapism—not unappealing, in the dead of winter—but after awhile the decisive marks and sky-high waves begin to take on the epic tone of that most mythopoetic of American arts: comic books.

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“Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry,” by Paul Goldberger (Knopf)

If you felt Sydney Pollack’s documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry laid it on a touch too thick about the sovereignty of artistic imagination in a field run by politics and money, then you’ll appreciate Goldberger’s clear-eyed biography. The book details the architect’s calculated rise within the halls of power—beginning, apparently, with his name change. Before he was Gehry, he was Frank Goldberg.

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“Body of Art” (Phaidon)

This tome positions itself as the most extensive survey of the ways in which the human body has been tackled in art history, with an ambitious structure organized not chronologically but thematically. So if you’ve ever looked at a Cindy Sherman photograph and thought of the 15th century French painter Jean Fouquet, this book will help connect the dots.

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“Mina Stone: Cooking For Artists” (Kiito-San)

Wondering who came up with the beet fritters that had Rob Pruitt lining up for seconds? Stone has been the longtime chef behind the dinners at Gavin Brown’s gallery and at Urs Fischer’s studio; her cookbook comes with original work by the doting artists she’s served. For a take from the other side of the aisle (and if you’re willing to pay the shipping cost), consider Artists’ Recipes: Contemporary Artists and Their Favorite Recipes, published by the Swiss press BOLO. A word of warning: some of the ingredients can be a little, um, figurative, such as when Marina Abramovic, in her recipe for an aphrodisiac soup, calls for “seven days without sex.”

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“William Eggleston: The Democratic Forest” (Steidl)

The prolific Eggleston is famous for taking pictures in a casual manner that seems haphazard to the point of carelessness—until you see the final image. Which is why it might be worth investing in this season’s blockbuster, a 10-volume collection of over a thousand photographs culled from over 12,000 he took in the ’80s, many of them as he traveled around the South.