Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


NYC Art-stravaganza!
April 22, 2012 9:11 PM   Subscribe

I get to spend two months this summer in New York City, and I'm gonna hit as many art museums as I can, all genres and kinds. What should I read first to get the most out of the experience?

I enjoy visual art fine and am starting to develop some aesthetic tastes, but I have next to no intellectual background in the discipline. I want to suck up as much good on-the-ground learning with some of the best art in the world, but I want to make sure I know what it is I'm looking for. Books in all sorts of related categories - history, aesthetics, appreciation, etc - are all appreciated, so long as they require no background other than being a (reasonably) good eye.

Many thanks!
posted by Apropos of Something to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you like contemporary art check out PS1.
posted by four panels at 10:15 PM on April 22, 2012


Thoroughly recommend the Nicholas Roerich Museum -- you'll definitely want to see it after you read about the pact that he got over 21 nations (including the US) to sign, which declared museums and other important cultural sites to be totally protected during times of war.
posted by hermitosis at 10:16 PM on April 22, 2012


Ways of Seeing by John Berger is a pretty good introduction to thinking about art in its political context.

If you're in New York you will be looking at an awful lot of painting. I found James Elkin's What Painting Is to quite a fascinating read.

And, I would also recommend Raiding the Icebox by Peter Wollen as a good general introduction to some of the main artistic movements of the 20th century and how there was more going on than the Modernist enterprise may have let on at the time.

Hope this helps and my gosh you're going to have a wonderful time with it all in NYC.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 10:18 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can go on and on here about obscure and awesome museums here. NYC is FULL of them.

I will recommend stopping in at The Temple of Dendur at The Met.

This Museum, (with tons of AWESOME) is basically free, donation (of your choosing) is all that is required for entry. I live in LA now, there is no better Museum than The Met. Full stop.

The Temple of Dendur at The Met.

Go There.
posted by jbenben at 10:30 PM on April 22, 2012


Have you read The Shock of the New? Much recommended.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:08 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


i liked New Art City its a history of mid century modernism in New York and its fun because you can go to many of the places mentioned in the book. Its also nice because it isn't overly technical and will give you a good background on that time period.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 11:48 PM on April 22, 2012


[Maybe the OP can chime in and clarify if they want more, but the question as stated is actually asking for books that will help them get the most out of the museum art experience.]
posted by taz at 1:40 AM on April 23, 2012


Read the books published by the museums that you will visit. For example, Masterpieces of the Met Museum will help you understand and appreciate the great works you will soon view there. Most museums have guides like this.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 5:29 AM on April 23, 2012


Nthing taz's reminder that Apropos is looking for books, not names of museums.

Apropos, I can't remember the name (but will check it at home) - but there's a two-book thing I have that's pretty nifty; it's an overview of a bunch of famous paintings, pointing out the details within them and giving a historic context. You many not see those specific paintings in New York, but knowing the kinds of things to look for may be of interest.

Another fun book that is more germane to New York museums is fiction, and a kids' book, but fun -- the classic From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler.

A book on arms and armor may also be of interest; the arms and armor section is way more fun when you've got a working knowledge of how one sharp pointy thing differs from another sharp pointy thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:34 AM on April 23, 2012


Thomas Hoving who was director of the Met wrote two fascinating books about working at the museum: Making the Mummies Dance (overview of his directorship) & King of the Confessors (when he was a young curator).
posted by TishSnave at 7:04 AM on April 23, 2012


It's not a book, but you could do worse than spend some time watching Sister Wendy. She's really fun and gives a good theoretical background. If you were taking Art History 101 & 102 you'd most likely be given Gardner's Art Through the Ages but eep, I'm not sure anyone could just pick that thing up and read it, although I still have mine from the 80s and still look at it occasionally. There is a concise version but I've never seen it. The arts writer I recommend the most is Calvin Tomkins, but he doesn't really have anything resembling a survey book. And then there's this book, that I've been meaning to read for ages but haven't. It might be a good, if unusual, choice to start out with. Have a wonderful time!
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:07 AM on April 23, 2012


Can't go wrong with: The Guerrilla Girls Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art
posted by Pineapplicious at 8:10 AM on April 23, 2012


I suggest The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich, which has been very popular for a long time. The edition I linked to is in a cute little paperback format.
posted by Paquda at 10:36 AM on April 23, 2012


Just Kids, assuming you are interested in the artistic culture of New York specifically, in addition to the obvious kid-in-candy-store stuff like the Metropolitan Museum.

A couple ideas for documentaries to see, though I know you asked for books:

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

Herb & Dorothy


Our City Of Dreams


More about music and less about visual arts, but if you want to get your fix on Greenwich Village, the later Beats, and folk music: No Direction Home
posted by Sara C. at 8:32 PM on April 23, 2012


Thanks for redirecting the conversation back to books and stuff. It's not that I'm not interested in finding out of the way museums and things, but I assume there's threads on that already, and that my wandering will be much more influenced by impulse than planning.

EmpressCallipygos: "Apropos, I can't remember the name (but will check it at home) - but there's a two-book thing I have that's pretty nifty; it's an overview of a bunch of famous paintings, pointing out the details within them and giving a historic context. You many not see those specific paintings in New York, but knowing the kinds of things to look for may be of interest. "

Please do let me know when you dig this up. This is exactly what I had in mind.
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:15 PM on April 23, 2012


EmpressCallipygos, are you thinking of something similar to What Great Paintings Say or How to Read a Painting? I have a couple of books along these lines and they are, indeed, helpful.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:48 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"What Great Paintings Say" actually is the book I had in mind. (I have the 25th anniversary edition, which came in two volumes; I didn't even know there was a third.) thanks!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:55 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would recommend to read Roberta Smith from the New York Times and Jonathan Jones from the Guardian.

I had soaked up art through books and images until I discovered (years ago) with Robert Hughes in Time Magazine that art critic could be great, exciting, eye opening.

Smith and Jones have the same qualities: a crazy love for art, a great curiosity, a deep knowledge of art history and an elegant and passionate style to write about it.
posted by bru at 7:45 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older My superiors keep checking out...   |  What are brand identifiers tha... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.