Magazine Home  |  News  |  Features  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  People  |  Horoscope  
    Book Report
by Erika Biddle
Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings
from Harry N. Abrams
The Ultimate Picasso
from Abrams
The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp
from DGE
Marcel Duchamp
Paysage Fautif (Wayward Landscape)
Women Artists
from Rizzoli
A History of Women Photographers
from Abbeville Press
Louise Dahl-Wolfe
The Convert Look
in A History of Women Photographers
Annette Messager
from Flammarion
Cindy Sherman: Retrospective
from Thames and Hudson
Shirin Neshat: Women of Allah
from Marco Noire Editoire
Jenny Saville: Territories
from Gagosian Gallery Publications
The Grove Book of Art Writing
Big artists get big books, especially with Christmas looming on the horizon. No one is bigger than Leonardo, the world's most famous painter. Super-art-book-publisher Harry N. Abrams has got him, specifically Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings ($85).

The 384-page, 12-inch-square hardcover features all 34 of Leonardo's known paintings -- along with some of his sketches and notes -- presented in a way that would make Hugh Hefner proud. The Annunciation (1473-74) and The Last Supper (1494-98), for instance, are lush double gatefolds with accompanying full-page details. The reproductions of the details are so clear, that in Saint Jerome (ca. late 1470s), for example, you can see Leonardo's fingerprints embedded in the landscape, where he was rendering in the sfumato.

Text is by art scholar Pietro C. Marani, who has written more than 130 books, essays and articles on Leonardo and his period and who is co-director of the restoration of The Last Supper. The classy Rizzoli bookstore on 57th Street in Manhattan expects to get a scant 30 copies by the middle of November.

Leonardo's measly output pales in comparison to Pablo Picasso (who also had more wives). Abrams's similarly hernia-inducing (it measures 13 by 11.5 inches) and Popishly titled The Ultimate Picasso ($95) has almost 2,000 illustrations, nearly 800 of them color reproductions of art works.

Text by scholar Brigitte Léal, curator at the Musée Picasso in Paris, covers the artist's formative years from 1881 through 1916, including his invention of Cubism with Georges Braque. Christine Piot, who wrote the catalogue raisonné of Picasso's sculpture, explores the period from 1917 through 1952. Marie-Laure Bernadac, curator at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris, discusses Picasso's later years, from 1953 until his death in 1973.

According to the flyleaf blurb, "Picasso himself once boasted that a book would have to be written about him every day to keep up with his bursts of creativity." Match that for hubris, Mark Kostabi.

Meanwhile, far away from Abrams' luxurious midtown precincts, downtown New York independent publisher Delano Greenidge is re-releasing the third edition of art scholar Arturo Schwarz's The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp -- this time as a commercial edition in paperback for $65.

The 1,002-page tome -- the War and Peace of art books -- was originally released in 1997 as two volumes sexily bound in black linen in a limited run of 3,000. At the time it sold for $225, but since it went out of print over two years ago, secondhand dealers have it listed for $340 and up.

Replete with 663 entries (253 of them newly extracted from Schwarz's fanatical notes on Duchamp's art) -- The Complete Works is a valuable resource, especially at its more affordable price. Be sure to check out the illustration of Wayward Landscape (1946), which was painted with seminal fluid as a kinky cadeau for Duchamp's married Brazilian paramour, Maria Martins.

More than marketable
As everyone knows, today's art world belongs to women. So no surprise that women artists are getting their due, in the way of museum retrospectives (Lee Krasner, Martha Rosler, Adrian Piper), press (the Yale photographers, the yBa women, Pipilotti Rist, Janine Antoni) -- and books.

Women Artists (Rizzoli, $50), by art historian Nancy Heller (author of Women Artists: An Illustrated History), is based on the holdings of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. This 240-page guide features portraits, biographical data and discussions of the work of 86 artists spanning 500 years. Subjects range from the 16th-century Italian portraitist Lavinia Fontana and the 18th-century French artist Elisabeth-Louise Vigee Lebrun (Marie Antoinette's favorite painter) to 19th-century American artist Mary Cassatt and Russian-born American Louise Nevelson.

Women Artists also features examples from the museum's collection of more than 600 unique and limited edition artists' books by artists like Molly Van Nice, Mirella Bentivoglio and Claire Van Vliet.

In A History of Women Photographers: Updated and Expanded, Naomi Rosenblum -- author of the standard reference A World History of Photography and the original History of Women Photographers (Abbeville Press, 1997) -- explores the work of more than 240 women photographers -- from the mid 1800s and Julia Margaret Cameron to Cindy Sherman and beyond. For this new edition, 18 images have been added and the three final chapters, biographies and extensive annotated bibliography have been updated and expanded to include more contemporary artists. The clothbound book is due out this month with a price of $65.

French, American, Iranian
Long overdue is the monograph on French photographer and installation artist Annette Messager ($50), published by Flammarion to accompany a recent exhibition at the Fondation National des Arts Plastiques. Though the text is in French, the book is the only thing currently in print on this artist. The wealth of color photographs -- many of very recent works -- make this a much-needed reference on this artist who's been around since the 1970s.

Cindy Sherman: Retrospective, the only full career survey of Sherman's work, was originally published to accompany exhibitions at MoCA Los Angeles and MoCA Chicago. Now, Thames and Hudson has acquired it and re-released it because, frankly, at just under $35, it's such an easy sell. Its 219 pages contain 145 color reproductions and essays by Amada Cruz, Elizabeth A. T. Smith and Amelia Jones.

Also out now is The Hasselblad Award 1999: Cindy Sherman ($46.50), a slim (48 pp.) hardcover featuring work picked by Sherman to define her 20-plus years of photography -- from the Untitled Film Stills to the mutilated doll series of 1999 -- and includes a foreword by Gunilla Knape and an introduction by Joanna Lowry.

Shirin Neshat has received widespread acclaim for video installations, films and photographs that poetically chronicle the weight of historical, religious, public and private issues upon Iranian women. It's a measure of her popularity, then, that Shirin Neshat: Women of Allah ($40), a book of her black and white photography -- published in Italy in 1997 by Marco Noire Editore with text by Francesco Bonami, Hamid Dabashi and Octavio Zaya -- only made its appearance in the U.S. trade this August and is already out of print.

Another Neshat book, Rapture, published by Galerie Jerome de Noirmont -- with 55 pages of stills from Neshat's 1999 film and text by James Rondeau of the Art Institute of Chicago -- can still be had in time for Christmas.

YBAs, etc.
The young British painter Jenny Saville is celebrated for fleshy female nudes that often seem so plentiful that they overflow the boundaries of any kind of physical reality -- and almost beyond our preconceptions of what beauty is.

Jenny Saville: Territories, originally published as a soft-cover edition by Gagosian Gallery to coincide with a 1999 exhibition there, pictures several of Saville's more recent works. Among its attraction is a painting of hermaphrodite Del LaGrace Volcano, who contributes a short essay to the book. Last month, the extremely popular catalogue was re-released in hardcover for $40.

Gagosian also published Cecily Brown's monograph ($40) last month, replete with an essay by contemporary fiction writer A.M. Holmes. Another young British painter of amorphous bodies, Brown makes paintings whose heavily textured surfaces seem brazenly Ab Ex with mysterious, extremely sexual scenes lurking beneath.

Another young female artist who has achieved much notoriety -- for her bizarre eating and art-making habits, namely, sculpting busts of herself from chocolate and lard and using her eyelashes and hair as paintbrushes -- is Janine Antoni, who places her own body at the center of her works. Last month, d.a.p. released Hatje Cantz's Janine Antoni ($45) -- the first substantial monograph on this artist.

What is art?
"Art? Isn't that a man's name?" said Andy Warhol, in response to this unanswerable question. Warhol's witticism is featured in The Grove Book of Art Writing ($14.40). Finally, a book about something really interesting! Included in its 640 pages are Pliny the Elder's tale of Protogenes and the creative process, Sigmund Freud on why the Mona Lisa smiles (Freud believed it implicated Leonardo as a passive homosexual) and Damien Hirst's recipe for pickling cows (a swimming-pool-sized tank of formaldehyde, biohazard gear for the artist and his assistants and a high colonic for the cow).

The Prestel Dictionary of Art & Artists in the 20th Century ($75), which has been delayed for several seasons, possibly because it contains information that is so of the moment that its editors, professors Wieland Schmeid, Frank Whitford and Frank Zöllner, couldn't stop adding to the already sizable text. The single volume dictionary came out last month with approximately 1,400 entries.

The cover design for this alphabetically indexed reference book is a stylized tear, as if the designer anticipated the wear of this project upon its editors.

ERIKA BIDDLE is assistant editor at Artnet Magazine.