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If you have not made the move from serial art gallery visitor to serious art collector yet, don’t worry. There is a step to take before you start investing your hard-earned dirhams on original art. A high-quality coffee table book might be the sort of affordable investment you’re looking for. We’ve rounded up a collection of works that will interest the reader as well as impress visitors to your home.
100 Works of Art That Will Define Our Age Kelly Grovier’s audacious tome not only narrows down the ever expanding world of contemporary art to 100 key players but defines each artist by a single work. While Grovier’s texts err towards the poetic, essentially this is an A to Z, from Marina Abramovic to Artur Zmijewski of art made between 1989 (the fall of the Berlin Wall) to now-ish (the Arab Spring) that takes in all the hits – Damien Hirst’s diamond skull ‘For the Love of God’ (2007), Jeff Koons’s giant floral ‘Puppy’ (1992), Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’ (1998). Art fiends may find their eyebrows involuntarily raised by some of the inclusions – and omissions. But this is a great introduction for anyone keen to get to grips with the headline-grabbers of the past two decades. Dhs110, from www.amazon.com
Art & Place This hefty book is an ode to the mind blowing and groundbreaking site-specific works that grace the Americas. There’s no need to take a long haul flight; from the comfort of your living room you can embark on the trip of your dreams through Canada, USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia and Chile to experience the awe-inspiring works through beautiful large-format images. There are petroglyphs from the Northwestern Plains, Diego Rivera’s Mexican murals and Walter De Maria’s iconic ‘The Lighting Field’ (1977) in New Mexico. No land art book would be complete without Robert Smithson’s ‘Spiral Jetty’ (1970, pictured), but it’s the inclusion of unexpected and unknown works, like Dennis Oppenheim’s ‘Bus Home’, along with comprehensive and insightful texts, which makes this immense volume as hard to put down as it is to lift up. Dhs180, from www.amazon.com
Brassaï: For the Love of Paris Brassaï’s first visit to Paris proved an astonishing experience for the toddler from Transylvania (born Gyula Halász in 1899). The City of Lights went on to become a unifying theme in the work of this godfather of street photography. This gorgeous book by Agnès de Gouvion Saint-Cyr features photographs predominantly from the 1930s, when Brassaï documented both Paris’s elegant high-society and its nocturnal demi-monde. In these images he captures the noisy, the secret, and the spectacular: from glimmering gas lamps to erotic gazes. Oh là là. Dhs180, from www.amazon.com
The Reckoning: Women Artists of the New Millennium With a title that sounds like a revenge flick and a cover image of a woman brandishing a pole, this follow up to ‘After the Revolution: Women Who Transformed Contemporary Art’ is certainly attention-grabbing, but don’t be deterred. This manageable tome focuses on 25 international women artists, including Mika Rottenberg, Nathalie Djurberg, Pipilotti Rist, Klara Liden, Andrea Zittel, Teresa Margolles and Kara Walker, whose work is cleverly grouped into chapters ‘Bad Girls’, ‘Spellbound’, ‘Domestic Disturbances’ and ‘History Lessons’, each written by a female writer. There’s no strident agenda here, no call to march through the city streets to support the cause, just tonnes of thought-provoking and purposeful art. Dhs110, from www.amazon.com
Wild Art ‘What is Wild Art?’ ask David Carrier and Joachim Pissarro in the opening chapter of this chucklesome book. Over the following 500 pages, they try valiantly to answer the question yet conspicuously fail to get to grips with a subject that evades definition at every turn. Wild art, it turns out, is a knitted tableau of Olympic sports installed in North Yorkshire, in the UK in 2012 by the ‘Saltburn Yarnbomber’, a building shaped like a wicker basket (the Longaberger Basket Company building in Ohio), a portrait of Barack Obama made out of Cheerios... In short, it’s everything ignored by the mainstream art press, including art made by, from and with animals – such as Lady Gaga’s meat dress and a pooch painted by its owner to resemble a tiger. Never before has street art looked as tame as in this often outrageous but ultimately touching exploration of human (and non-human) creativity. Who knew ants were abstract expressionists? Dhs99, from www.amazon.com