Best books and websites on modern and contemporary art?
March 15, 2010 11:52 AM   Subscribe

What are the best books and websites about modern and contemporary art, from 1850 to today? I want to find materials that could totally change how I think about modern art, world-wide.
posted by tnygard to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Danto, Dewey, Adorno, Benjamin and Goehr are all good places to start on the theory end.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:58 AM on March 15, 2010


I've always been intrigued by http://smarthistory.org/ - Smarthistory. It's an interactive, online art history textbook.

It is not solely focused on modern art, but you can probably use it as a springboard for learning more.
posted by kellygrape at 12:00 PM on March 15, 2010


You could do a lot worse than studying Marcel Duchamp. There are a number of decent books on his work and its implications - read a few of them. There should be a few in your local library to start you off.

Also, photography was invented around 1840, so everything you study in the period you've identified will be in some kind of dialogue with that (new) medium.

Personally, I'd stick with books for this project. Make a 2-year commitment to give art a chance and just follow your nose. You'll feel very ignorant at first but before long you'll start to fit some pieces of the jigsaw together.

Another idea - if you have any galleries/museums nearby, try to attend the talks by artists or curators.
posted by SebastianKnight at 12:08 PM on March 15, 2010


The Shock of The New by Robert Hughes was the main text for one of my modern art classes -- it's been a few years since I've touched it, but I remember being fascinated by it (more so because I enjoy seeing how art, history, literature, philosophy, technology, etc relate to each other). It's based on his 1980s BBC documentary series of the same name (which I did not see, so I can't vouch for that).

I also see that he's since done an updated BBC documentary series: The New Shock of the New. I had no idea this existed -- and now I want to see it. I'd love to know what Hughes thinks of the post-modern art genre.
posted by paisley sheep at 12:17 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


What do you think about modern art now? A little more information might help point you in a more specific direction. Is there a particular field of visual art that intrigues you more than others, or are you just looking for an all-encompassing text from 1850-present?
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 12:19 PM on March 15, 2010


Also Burger's Theory of the Avant Garde is quite amazing.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:45 PM on March 15, 2010


MIT OpenCourseWare: 20th Century Art
posted by xod at 1:48 PM on March 15, 2010


also, MIT OCW: Modern Art and Mass Culture
posted by xod at 1:51 PM on March 15, 2010


Although you didn't mention videos, the PBS program Art21 is a really wonderful introduction to contemporary art. A number of episodes can be found on Hulu.
posted by susanvance at 2:09 PM on March 15, 2010


Art Since 1900 is heavy going - prepare for serious brain strain - but extremely illuminating. Susan Sontag's On Photography is interesting reading, as is John Berger's Ways of Seeing. I'd second Robert Hughes's 'Shock of the New' (he writes so well!). Oh and run don't walk to read Van Gogh's letters....
posted by HandfulOfDust at 3:08 PM on March 15, 2010


Shock of the New is good and was used in my art history classes (which I took a lot of).

For photography I highly recommend Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography

Also I think In the Making: Creative Options for Contemporary Art would be a good companion to any more typical art history books. It interviews artist - from Thomas Kincaid to Matthew Barney - about how their craft relates to the conceptual part of their work and why they do what they do.
posted by bradbane at 3:39 PM on March 15, 2010


Shock of the New, again, the original documentary series is a classic. A swell overview of the 20th century. Haven't seen the new one.
posted by ovvl at 4:40 PM on March 15, 2010


I can't believe this hasn't made it here yet, but Dave Hickey's Air Guitar. This guy single handedly woke me up when I was in art school. I can't say I woke up any happier, but I was a hell of a lot more in tune with what was going on.
posted by ghostpony at 11:06 AM on March 16, 2010


Also, Hickey's other book Invisible Dragon: Essays on Beauty.
posted by ghostpony at 11:07 AM on March 16, 2010


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