The 30 Best Art Books Of 2013

The 30 Best Art Books Of 2013

The end of 2013 is near, so it's a better time than ever to celebrate the year's best art books. The round-up below is a compilation of 30 worthy publications from January to December, showcasing a selection of the greatest literary homages to painting, photography, graphic design, Wes Anderson, erotic artwork, contemporary female artists, adorable fictional architects, coloring books for adults and so much more.

Behold, the 30 books you should have read in 2013:

1. Art Cities of the Future

Gigi Scaria, Someone Left a Horse on the Shore, 2007, digital print on archival paper, 109 × 164 cm. Delhi, India

The massive book introduced us to art communities in countries like Singapore and Nigeria, locales that are poised to shake things up in the 21st century. Forget Paris or New York City, the 336-page book surveys 12 global cities to watch out for, chosen for their impact on contemporary art, history of artistic importance, and overall cultural climate.

2. The Reckoning: Women Artists of the New Millennium

Exhibition view of The Parade: Nathalie Djurberg with Music by Hans Berg, New Museum, New York, 2012. Courtesy of Zach Feuer Gallery, New York, and Giò Marconi Milan. Photo by Benoit Pailley.

The work delves into the accomplishments of 24 international women artists born in the years following 1960 and serves as a follow-up to Eleanor Heartney, Helaine Posner, Nancy Princenthal and Sue Scott's 2008 book, "After the Revolution: Women Who Transformed Contemporary Art." With themes like "Bad Girls" and "Domestic Disturbances," the publication appeals to radical feminists, art history buffs and anyone who cringed at Ken Johnson's remarks about female artists this year.

3. The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti

(Artwork by Tec, Pedro Perelman, Chu/Photo by Tec)

The ambitious street art tome sets out to become the definitive reference guide on international street art, covering artists hiding in all corners of the globe. From Shepard Fairey's iconic work in California to Tima Radya's political musings across Russia to Os Gemeos' magical characters sprinkled around Brazil, the anthology of murals and more illuminates the visual beauty of street art, as well as the rich history behind it.

4. Discovering Architecture

(Image: © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY)

"Architecture is not reserved for an elite in any sense," writes art historian and writer Philip Jodidio. "It is rather the substance from which country, culture, city and identity are formed." Jodidio is the author of the 2013 book "Discovering Architecture," a visual journey through the histories of 50 of the world's greatest buildings and the architects who imagined them. It's a must read.

5. Outside The Lines

Dance of the Disciples, Gary Baseman, © Gary Baseman, 2012

This is a coloring book for adults who love contemporary art. Need we say more? It includes monochromatic versions of artworks by Shepard Fairey, Steven Harrington, Ryan McGinness and the late Keith Haring (among a slew of other famous names), and it's just begging to be adorned with pencils, markers and glitter paint.

6. Poseur: A Memoir of Downtown New York City in the '90s

marc spitz poseur

In author and playwright Marc Spitz's new book, "Poseur: A Memoir of Downtown New York City in the '90s," he offered us a glimpse into the gritty beginnings of his life as a rock journalist, dishing on the alternative music and theater scenes along the way. You can check out an excerpt of the book here.

7. Letterscapes


What began as Anna Saccani's doctoral thesis turned into an ode to the art of large-scale public typography projects. From Robert Indiana's iconic LOVE statue in Philadelphia to Lawerence Weiner's New York City manhole covers, the publication is an homage to all things typography in public.

8. Young Frank, Architect


The Museum of Modern Art released its first storybook this year, a cute narrative that follows the adventures of a young New York City architect and his architect grandfather, Young Frank and Old Frank respectively. Written by renowned author and illustrator Frank Viva, it's a treat for any child or architecture-loving parent.

9. The Wes Anderson Collection


If you're a fan of the eccentric cinematography of Mr. Anderson, you need to stop what you're doing and geek out over this book immediately. It's packed with interviews, essays and photos from "Moonrise Kingdom," "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou." We mean packed.

10. Type: A Visual History of Typefaces & Graphic Styles

Monotype Gill Sans, The Monotype Corporation, London, 1935

Thanks to this book you can salivate over the gaudy history of roman, italic and bold type specimens of yore. The anthology of early graphic styles surveys the typography eras before the computer, providing a beautiful overview of type artists like William Caslon, Peter Behrens and Rudolf Koch.

11. Wild Art

wild art
Mondrian Car (Photo: Harrod Blank)

A melting ice cream truck, a yarn-bombed tree, an intricately sculpted beach -- these are not exactly the types of artworks you'll see lining the halls of the Metropolitan Museum. Too big, too loud or too anti-establishment, these are the "wild artworks" Authors David Carrie and Joachim Pissarro outline in their dazzling 2013 book.

12. The Big Book of Art


Do you remember your first encounter with a work of art? Was it an oversaturated landscape in your pediatrician's office or perhaps an eye-catching illustration in a bedtime story? Whatever it was, it probably was not as cool as "The Big Book Of Art," a new art book designed for preschoolers by Herve Tullet.

13. Kurt & The Gang

kurt cobain sticker book

Guess which grunge god got his own sticker book in 2013? That would be the late Kurt Cobain. Featuring 60 adhesive artworks by 13 different designers, the kitschy publication pays homage to Cobain and his pals Daniel Johnston, Courtney Love, The Pixies, Dave Grohl and more. Did we mention it's a sticker book?

14. 100 Illustrators

Golden Plague, 2004, Tim Biskup, Personal work; cel-vinyl acrylic and gold leaf on panel

Edited by Steven Heller and Julius Wiedemann, "100 Illustrators" is based off the Illustration Now! series, which profiles draftsmen across the world, exploring the career trajectories and oeuvres of illustration's finest. For "100 Illustrators," Heller narrowed a list of 600 possible artists included in the series over the years to a final roster of names like Mirko Ilić, Anita Kunz, and Christoph Niemann.

15. Paper Dolls


In a stunning project from Shotwell Paper Mill, artist Pam DeLuco and illustrator Annemaree Reahas put a contemporary twist on the traditional medium of paper dolls. Using accurate depictions of U.S. military uniforms, the book explores the lives of women in the armed forces in the form of two-dimensional paper figures.

16. Erotica Universalis

Eric Stanton, A Lesson in Eros, 1964

A reissued book from Taschen, titled "Erotica Universalis," outlined the blush-worthy history of erotic art, surveying icons -- from Egypt's Golden Empire to present day -- with a knack for translating sexual fantasies into master works of art. Written by art historian and journalist Gilles Neret, the compilation pulls together works by Pablo Picasso, Eric Stanton, Egon Schiele and more.

17. 100 Works Of Art That Will Define Our Age

Matthew Barney, Cremaster 4, 1994. Production still. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Photo Michael James O'Brien. (c) 1994 Matthew Barney.

This 2013 art book boldly went where a few other art books have gone before, daring to highlight 100 works of art that have defined the late 20th and early 21st century art world. From Matthew Barney to Kara Walker, the aptly named "100 Works Of Art That Will Define Our Age" aimed to gather every worthy contemporary artist in one giant, 320-page compilation.

18. Munch & Warhol

Warhol: © 2013 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Based on a past exhibition at New York's Scandinavia House, the book puts Andy Warhol's reinterpretations of Edvard Munch on display, sitting pretty next to the original "Scream" artist's works that inspired them. Titled "Munch/Warhol and the Multiple Image," it brings attention not only to Warhol's era of Munch-ian fascination, but also to the very apparent similarities between the two emotionally charged artists.

19. Leica Myself


Selfies anyone? Leica Myself released this book in 2013, featuring a plethora of well-crafted selfies taken with a variety of Leica camera models. Amateur and professional photographers alike participated in the world-wide search for self-portraits, yielding a selection of raw, surreal and comical photos that blow your sister's blurry iPhone creations out of the water.

20. Modern Art Cookbook

Gustav Klimt, Garden Path with Chickens, 1916.

"Modern Art Cookbook" paid tribute to the delightful connection between art greats and the tasty objet d'art they all love -- food. Written and compiled by Mary Ann Caws, the book surveys the cuisines artists cooked, ate and depicted in their masterpieces.

21. The Paintings That Revolutionized Art

Gustav Klimt's "Adele Bloch-Bauer I" (1907)

The compilation brought together works by Hokusai, Cezanne, Munch, Vermeer and more, attempting to craft an art world listicle to trump all other listicles. Consisting of 100 iconic paintings spanning over a millennium, the pantheon of artworks tips its hat to a diverse range of genres and movements.

22. Acorn


"Acorn" is a collection of 100 pieces of sage advice from Yoko Ono herself. The book is a follow-up to her 1964 work, "Grapefruit," and like its predecessor, is part meditation, part artwork, sprinkled with her signature statements of peace and tranquility and an assortment of psychedelic dot drawings.

23. Egon Schiele: The Beginning

egon shiele sketchbook

The book gave us a chance to peek inside the personal sketchbook of the 20th century art giant Egon Schiele. Filled with scribbled musings and romantic portraits from his early career, the book includes images of Schiele's previously unpublished journal -- rare glimpse into the short-lived existence of an artist who died at only 28 years old.

24. Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews

Courtesy of Badlands Unlimited

It was New York in 1964, and Calvin Tomkins had the opportunity to interview Marcel Duchamp about his life and work. We are told the "Afternoon Interviews" will renew "Duchamp as a vital model for a new generation of artists." Aren't you excited to see why?

25. Ice Age Art

Courtesy of the British Museum, London

This book contains images of sculptures and drawings from the last European Ice Age, or the oldest known figurative art in the world. The exhibition was on view at the British Museum in London, but lives on Jill Cook's publication.

26. Tracey Emin: My Photo Album

Courtesy of FUEL

Tracey Emin has never been shy of baring it all. In this new book, she presents her whole life through a series of intimate photos, including her 14-year-old bus pass and this provocative shot of a bondage fantasy scene. In a recent piece for the Guardian, Emin recalls her attachment to her photographs at age 13: "They were my identity. The memory of my own existence."

27. Tom Bianci: Fire Island Pines, Polaroids 1975-1983

Artbook/ D.A.P.

The intrepid photographer Tom Bianci travelled to Fire Island in 1970 just after graduating law school. Using a Polaroid camera, Bianchi documented the community of gay men there, his sexualized images capturing the carefree summers on the Long Island beach.

28. VARIOUS SMALL BOOKS: Referencing Various Small Books by Ed Ruscha

Courtesy of The MIT Press

Ed Ruscha created a series of books during the '60s and '70s featuring "mundane subjects photographed prosaically, with idiosyncratically deadpan titles," MIT Press states. So this is one big book to cover them all.

29. Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and Citizenship

Courtesy of the Aperture Foundation

Is "bearing witness" and documenting tragedy enough? Breaking from the traditional expectations of photojournalism, Fred Ritchin questions the responsibility of the modern photojournalist. He investigates how modern photography, video, books, and exhibitions can go beyond documentation to inspire social change.

30. Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio, Dubuffet

Courtesy of the Phillips Collection

This book documents the relationship between Jackson Pollock, Alfonso A. Ossorio, and Jean Dubuffet and their collective influence on post-war art. Bonus feature: Dubuffet's never-before published 1951 essay on Ossorio is worth a read.

Click on the links within each book description to learn more about our 2013 choices and let us know your picks for the year in the comments. Check out last year's best books below.

Before You Go


Best Art Books of 2012


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