Holiday Shopping: 6 Books for the Art Lover in Your Life

Holiday Shopping: 6 Books for the Art Lover in Your Life
From left: Cabinets of Wonder, The Impossible Collection of Cars, and Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination 1300-1350

The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker
By Keith F. Davis
Yale University Press
224 Pages, $60

Ray K. Metzker might not be the most recognizable name in photography, but his innovative work qualifies him as a master of the medium, as a 2011 exhibition originating at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, demonstrated. In the first comprehensive monograph devoted to the artist, Davis, the show’s curator, proclaims that Metzker, born in 1931, “stands at the apex of this great tradition of modernist, monochrome photography.” Metzker’s loyalty to black-and-white led him to breakthroughs in tonal values and composition, notably experiments with photographic composites. This handsome volume contains rich reproductions of the museum’s holdings and Davis’s thorough essay on the artist’s life and work. —Doug McClemont

Cabinets of Wonder
Text by Chris Tine Davenne 
Photographs by Christine Fleurent Abrams
232 Pages, $45

In an age where everyone’s a curator, it is not unhelpful to look back on the history of cabinets of curiosity, those 16th-century Wunderkammers that learned Europeans stocked with memento mori, unusual specimens, and works of art. If they give us our Western notion of museums, they also reinforce the privatization of taste and culture. (Today “it is the collection that makes the art, not the art that makes the collection,” notes Davenne wryly.) This volume sets itself apart from the glut of similar books with smart, succinct text that ranges from Diderot to Bourriaud by way of Benjamin, and with coverage of modern-day incarnations, such as the Château du Champ de Bataille in Normandy and Malplaquet House in London (2). —Sarah P. Hanson

The Impossible Collection of Cars
By Dan Neil
168 Pages, $695

The third installment in Assouline’s lavishly bound “Impossible Collection” series is a definitive pictorial assessment of pivotal moments in 20th-century automotive design. The lineup, compiled by Pulitzer Prize–winning Wall Street Journal car columnist Neil, includes models from the collections of noted car lovers Marlene Dietrich, Ralph Lauren, and Pablo Picasso. Depicting both singular greats like the 1948 Tucker Torpedo and engineering icons like the 1966 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350H, the book’s 100 detailed photographs, encased in a rubber clamshell box, manage to evoke a vicarious sense of ownership for a heretofore inconceivable automotive collection. —Christopher Estrella

Tokyo 1955–1970: A new avant-garde
Edited By Doryun Chong 
228 Pages, $55

The devastation wrought by War II on Japan gave rise to generation of artists almost World a wholly constituted by a new, increasingly urbanized order. During this “heady, chaotic, and altogether exhilarating span,” writes Chong, artists began utilizing public space; collaborating in collectives, such as Jikken Kobo and the Gutai group; and activating the body in performance-based works. Still, says Chong, “Their work was also a salvaging operation in search of the legacy of prewar avant-gardes, both Western and Japanese.” With essays and biographical sketches of all the major players, including Kojima Nobuaki (1), Yoko Ono, Daido Moriyama, and Eikoh Hosoe, the book provides context and depth for the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition, on view through February 10. —SPH

The Naked Nude
By Frances Borzello
Thames & Hudson
192 Pages, $45

From ancient Greek athletes to plastic surgery, pursuit of an ideal body has long been a human preoccupation — except, as Borzello argues, in modern and contemporary art. She charts the progression toward the flawed “naked nude” thematically, with work running the gamut from Alice Neel’s frank portrayals of unclothed friends, including Andy Warhol in 1970 (3) to the controversial body and performance art of the 1960s and ’70s and newer interpretations, such as Rineke Dijkstra’s intimate photographs of new mothers and Sarah Lucas’s suggestive vegetable sculptures. Though today’s nude is confrontational, the effect is rarely distancing; instead, Borzello concludes, its honesty forges an emotional bond between artist and viewer. —Georgina Wells

Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination 1300-1350
Edited By Christine Sciacca 
Getty Publications
448 Pages, $65

Trecento Florence is virtually synonymous with the Renaissance: Dante, Giotto, Petrarch, and Boccaccio all called the city home, and the remarkable artistic output of the period was driven by the cross pollination of Florentine literary circles and collaborative artisan workshops, as this opulent volume demonstrates anew. In conjunction with an exhibition currently on view at the Getty Museum, this book positions painters and illuminators in the larger context of literary and liturgical culture. While Giotto’s religious paeans (4) loom large, the illuminated manuscripts — especially the tableaux vivants of the panel painter Pacino di Bonaguida — are decadent enough to make a prelate blush. —Grace-Yvette Gemmell

This article appeared in the December 2012 issue of Art+Auction.