Earlier this month, artnet.com's bookstore team traveled to Los Angeles for the annual Book Expo America, the primary U.S. trade show for publishers and booksellers. We scoured the fluorescent-lit convention halls by day and swanky publisher's fetes by night, in search of the best new art books to offer to our devoted readership. Most of the books listed here are on the fall lists, which means they won't be available for several months -- but they can be ordered in advance from the artnet.com bookstore.
Certainly one of the least expected titles is The Superhuman Crew from the J. Paul Getty Museum, a picture book that brings together Bob Dylan's 1965 song Desolation Row with James Ensor's Expressionist masterpiece Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889 (1888), which the Getty bought in 1987 for a reported $15 million. The book features Dylan's surreal lyrics (which include the phrase taken as the book title) with numerous details from the hallucinogenic painting, and even comes with a compact disc of the song. Did the multitalented Dylan, who makes drawings and paintings himself, personally approve the project? "The licensing fees were very reasonable," said the Getty's John Harris. The publication is to have a 10,000-copy print run and be priced at $24.95.
There's already a lot of buzz around Robert Mapplethorpe Pictures, a new compilation of the late photographer's controversial sex pictures. Featuring over 100 photos, 70 of which have never been published before, the book includes texts by Mapplethorpe and Interview editor Ingrid Sischy. Publisher is Arena Editions in Santa Fe, which specializes in exquisite photography books, in cooperation with the Mapplethorpe Foundation in New York. Arena publisher James Crump said he expected to issue 30,000-40,000 copies of the $75 monograph in the first print run.
Another art-world troublemaker to watch for is Karen Finley, whose hardcover Pooh Unplugged features irresistible drawings of Winnie the Pooh and pals shamelessly sporting boners and taking cell-phone calls from Mike Eisner. In anticipation of what would seem to be inevitable Disney litigation to suppress the project, ex-TV writer and gallerist Tom Patchett, whose Track 16 Gallery published the book, hired his own high-powered lawyers to conduct a preemptive strike. (The attorneys alerted Disney of Patchett's plans for the parody, and invited a response -- which was not forthcoming.)
In any case, Pooh Unplugged comes with a warning sticker that suggests it is "not meant for children or stupid adults." For the book's October release, Finley is reportedly planning a book tour, in which she will sign books and do performances using honey, if possible, at Barnes & Noble stores across America. The book is distributed by the L.A.-based art book publisher and distributor Ram Publications, which entertained us all at a nerve-soothing get-together at the sublime Museum of Jurrasic Technology, hosted by RAM's Theresa Luisotti.
Everyone agrees that there was no single "big" art book announced for the fall season, unless you mean big in size, in which case it is unquestionably the new photo tome from Phaidon Press. Century: One Hundred Years of Human Progress, Regression, Suffering and Hope may be the coffee table book of the year, if only for its hard-to-ignore scale. The book weighs in at 1,120 pages, and comes complete with carrying case and handle. With very little text, it's less a serious photography survey than a 13-pound pictorial history of culture and politics. But scholarship aside, it's still an impressive amount of book for only $49.95.
Other Phaidon offerings will be reviewed here in weeks to come, but of special note are two new entries in the British publisher's always excellent Contemporary Artist Series. One is a career-survey of South African artist William Kentridge, and the other a new monograph on L.A. local Mike Kelley -- a logical companion to Phaidon's earlier Paul McCarthy volume, and much needed given that other Kelley titles have gone out-of-print.
Phaidon also exhibited its usual good taste by hosting an elegant evening affair at the historic Rudolph Schindler House in West Hollywood. This modernist architectural masterpiece was once a swinging communal hangout for a salon of West Coast artists and agitators including Edward Weston, Maynard Dixon and John Cage. At the Phaidon party, a privileged group of tweedy booksellers snacked on Chinese chicken salad while fantasizing about the setting's decadent history.
Not to be outdone, notorious art and "sexy" book publisher Benedict Taschen held a black tie reception at the futuristic John Lautner-designed Chemosphere House, perched high up on the Laurel Canyon hillside. This snazzy event celebrated the publication of Jazz Seen, the definitive photographic history of jazz by William Claxton. Enjoying the live music and warm spring evening were Claxton and his wife, '60s fashion icon Peggy Moffitt. With signature hairdo and eyelashes, Ms. Moffitt looked every bit as cunning as she did 30 years ago, modeling the designs of Rudi Gernreich in the pages of Vogue.
Photography books were one highlight of the show. Celebrated photographer Mary Ellen Mark was on hand at the Aperture booth to sign posters and promote her major upcoming monograph, which will accompany a traveling exhibition to open at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in spring of 2000. And Chronicle Books previewed two compelling new surveys: American Photography: A Century of Images, a companion to an upcoming PBS series, and Love and Desire, a sequel to the beautifully designed The Body, probably the best-selling photo book of the last decade.
It was gratifying to see the reappearance of a long out-of-print '70s classic, the wonderfully absurd Suburbia by Bay Area photographer Bill Owens. Owens specialized in photographs of middle-class family life, often accompanied by touching captions in the subjects' own words. The revised edition is courtesy of the New York art press Fotofolio.
While Larry Clark's long-awaited artist's book Heroin was still nowhere in sight at the powerHouse Books booth, on display were two eye-catching July releases. I Love Fast Cars is an oddly chic photo study of muscle cars by young fashion photographer Craig McDean, best known for his work with Jil Sander and Calvin Klein. 1000 on 42nd Street is a typology-style composite portrait of the people of New York by photographer Neil Selkirk, who shot 1,000 headshots of people randomly passing through Times Square. Included in the book is an essay by fiendishly clever and now greatly missed designer Tibor Kalman, who commissioned the project.
On the design front, a few titles were especially cool. flatnessisgod is the silly yet incisive monograph by artist and designer Ryan McGinness, who collaborated with Soft Skull press and recent Wall Street IPO Razorfish Studios. With hilarious send-ups of the art world, weird logo and typographic experiments, and a square-shaped CD-ROM that actually works, this is one of the hippest books of the season.
Somewhat removed from the ironic corporate slickness of McGinness's book, but equally anarchistic is Fucked Up + Photocopied: The Instant Art of the Punk Rock Movement from Gingko Press. Here authors Bryan Turcotte and Christopher Miller lovingly present an amazing archive of over 1,000 punk flyers produced in North America between 1977 and 1985, all brought together in a handsome coffee table book no post-punk boomer will want to be without.
In the realm of more sober art scholarship, long-time art technique book publisher Watson-Guptil announced several new art criticism titles as part of its stated intention to become a more serious art press. Most notable of these is Women and Art: Contested Territory, in which co-authors Judy Chicago and Edward Lucie-Smith analyze images of women by both male and female artists from the whole of art history.
As usual, New York based D.A.P. previewed an abundance of art-book riches, certain to be savored in this column in the weeks to come. Highlights include two landmark catalogues from the Walker Art Center. Almost ready to release is Edward Ruscha Editions: 1962-1999, the first complete catalogue raisonné of the artist's editioned print work, presented in a two-volume, slip-cased set. And later this fall -- hopefully, given the artist's famously exacting temperament -- Bruce Conner fans will finally get their long-awaited retrospective catalogue. With the cover design already complete, the book is cryptically entitled 2000 BC: The Bruce Conner Story Part II, despite the fact that there is no part one.
Several new offerings from venerable art press Harry N. Abrams -- this year celebrating its 50th anniversary -- are worth mentioning. Dada expert Francis Naumann has delivered a substantial new Duchamp study entitled Marcel Duchamp: The Art of making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, due out in November.
In addition to the usual wealth of exhibition catalogues co-published with major New York museums, Abrams has slated first-time catalogue raisonnés on Balthus and Flemish painter Rogier van der Weyden. Abrams is also publishing a study called Great Women Collectors; the catalogue for the big Norman Rockwell show that will eventually travel to the Guggenheim Museum; and the first new survey on Diego Rivera in several years, with best-selling journalist Pete Hamill as its unlikely author.
CHARLES GUTE is the director of the bookstore at artnet.com.