Contemporary art: Help from the books

There are a lot of questions about contemporary art. In order to get them answered, we will list several significant books addressing the history of art, photography, and various cultural and social studies.  

When does modern art begin?

“Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism and Postmodernism” conceived


Hal Foster,

Rosalind Krauss,

Yve-Alain Bois,

Benjamin H. D. Buchloh,

David Joselit.


 As you have probably noticed, this book has quite many authors. And we have to state, that this is like a “star crew” of the art historians. All of the authors are acknowledged specialists with many theoretical works already issued, and they did brilliant job putting this books together (it consists of more than 120 articles). No wonder,

“Art Since 1900″

is a groundbreaking work with a chronological structure, that follows every major event and trend in the history of art since, as expected, 1900s. 

Why does contemporary art has to be discussed in light of social and historical context?

“The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by Walter Benjamin.


This book is among the most influential cultural studies of 20th century. In this work, the author analyzes the concept of authenticity in the light of the appearance of mechanical reproduction,

thereby changing perception of art, and the connection between art, society, and growing progress. Benjamin states "the manner in which human sense perception is organized, the medium in which it is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well.” 

How photography correlates with the history of art? 

“On Photography” by Susan Sontag.  


If you want to know basics about photography, this book is definitely for you. The collection of essays tells about history of photography, its relations with the capitalist society, particularly American one, as well as the psychological aspect of the movement. 

Why art is so commercialized these days, unlike the Old Masters’ works?
“Ways of seeing” by John Berger. 

This book consists of seven essays, some of them are visual ones. It describes different views on art, connections between traditional and contemporary art. Particularly the question about female depiction in the works of Old Masters and modern advertising and photography; the issue of commercializing the art today and in the past; the role that technologies
and innovations played in the evolving of art roles and functions. This book is essential for the understanding where certain trends and tendencies in modern visual culture came from; it is also important transmitter of feminist readings of the conventional works. John Berger goes deeper and studies the full underline of the social and cultural frameworks of art in different periods. There are also a BBC series based on this book.

With this powerful knowledge-set, you are ready to take over the world of contemporary art. The most common mistake people are doing when dealing with it is simplifying the meaning, ignoring the context, and focusing too much on a visual rather than theoretical part of the art works. These books will help you get the right angle on the modern art and will open the whole new world of exciting cultural crossovers and intellectual observations.

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