As we enter the long, hot month of August, Artnet News’s editors are here with a helpful list of art-related beach reads to add to your summer reading list.
by Jeffrey H. Jackson
by James McAuley
by Cynthia Saltzman
by Daniel Barbarisi
Other People’s Clothes
by Calla Henkel
American artist Calla Henkel, who is shortlisted along with her long-time collaborator, Max Pitegoff, for the 2021 Preis der Nationalgalerie, makes her fiction debut with Other People’s Clothes, a darkly funny crime thriller set in the Berlin expat art scene in the late aughts. Colorfully bringing to life its many corners—vapid, banal, and glamorous in twists and turns—Henkel’s book follows two millennial New York art students to the German capital, where they land for a semester abroad in a sublet that happens to be the home of a famous novelist. Soon curators, dealers, and artists are stomping through their life, partying in their in-house club, and the two start to create an art project-cum-social media platform for themselves. In the sunset era of it-girls—a decade presided over .JPEGS, Chloe Sevigny, and Britney Spears—Henkel draws up a dazzling and vaudevillian image of the art world, one that feels all too strange and too real at once.
by Jonathan Santlofer
This surprisingly engaging thriller turns to art history and the 1911 theft of what is now likely the world’s most famous painting, the . Luke Perrone, the great-grandson of the thief, Vincent Peruggia, gets more than he bargained for when he heads to Florence to examine a family manuscript. It turns out both Interpol and elements of the criminal underworld are also interested in its contents, which may reveal a shocking truth about the aforementioned Leonardo da Vinci painting in the Louvre. Did the police ever recover the real , or has a clever forger fooled the world for over a century? With romance, mystery, and near-death experiences, this book checks all the boxes for a scintillating summer read.
by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
by Michaela Carter
by Polly Samson
Here’s your chance for a vicarious escape to the island of Hydra in Greece circa 1960, especially as pandemic-related travel restrictions continue mid-2021. When 18-year old Erica arrives on the island, she struggles to balance her dream of becoming an artist and writer in her own right, with the demands of her boyfriend, who expects her to handle the domestic chores while he pursues his own path as a writer. As the summer winds on, tensions mount and Erica is drawn into this creative battle of the sexes, forcing her to decide which path to take.
by Jasmin Darznik
Jasmin Darznik transports readers to Jazz Age San Francisco in this novel about the early career of photographer Dorothea Lange. Arriving in the Bay Area as a 23-year-old in 1918, Lange quickly makes a (mostly fictional) Chinese American best friend and is introduced to to Monkey Block, a bohemian artists’ colony on the site of what is now the Transamerica Building, the most recognizable feature on the modern skyline. (There are cameo appearances from the likes of Frida Kahlo, Ansel Adams, and D. H. Lawrence.) But while the world has been dramatically transformed over the past century, Lange’s San Francisco is surprisingly relevant to modern day readers, with the young photographer witnessing political corruption, anti-immigrant sentiment—one character is based on Senator John Phelan, of the 1920 campaign slogan “Keep California white”—and a pandemic in the form of the Spanish flu. Darznik presents these events as forces that led Lange to her future career-making work documenting rural poverty for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression.
by Clay G. Small
This international tale stretches from Dallas to Amsterdam, following professor Henry Lindon as he hatches a daring plan based on a particularly infamous chapter in art history: Han van Meegeren’s notorious forgeries of Dutch Golden Age Master Johannes Vermeer. Lindon’s upstairs neighbor, Bernadette Gordon, has just written a hit novel about the artist and how he found himself on trial for selling the nation’s artistic treasures to the Nazis. (To prove his innocence, Van Meegeren had to admit to being a forger, a defense that was only accepted when he painted a new “Vermeer” live in court.) With the help of a savvy publicist and a talented painter, Lindon and Gordon just might be able to channel the renewed public interest in Van Meegeren’s life into a con of their own—for a good cause. The rather outlandish plot is counterbalanced by a likable cast of characters who come together to outwit Guy Wheeless, an unsavory Wichita businessman and serial sexual predator, when the law fails to bring him to justice.
by Carol Orange
by Cynthia Ozick
Cynthia Ozick’s latest novel is told from the perspective of Lloyd Wilkinson Petrie, a bitter, aging trustee of a long-ago-closed boarding school in whose dormitories he has returned to live. Petrie, whose memory is beginning to fail, struggles to write a brief memoir of his time at the school, which brings back stirring memories of his childhood encounter with fellow pupil Ben-Zion Elefantin, an unpopular boy who arrived at the academy one day claiming to have descended from an island in Egypt. The antiquities of Ozick’s title refer to a collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts that Petrie’s father collected, one of which becomes the central totem of a transformative experience the two boys share one night. Ozick’s story, which tracks Petrie as he grapples to make sense of the experience decades later, is written in her characteristically noble manner, and is marked by the irony fans of her work admire.
ART AND TRAVEL
by Susie Hodge
If the rise of the Delta variant has curtailed your ambitious summer travel plans this summer, this beautifully illustrated escapist gem is the perfect thing to bring to the beach. The book features 25 beautiful places around the world, pairing them with the artists they have inspired throughout art history—think Claude Monet and Giverny, Canaletto and Venice, and New Mexico and Georgia O’Keeffe. And it’s not just the artwork benefitting from the beauty of the landscape. “Often, as art captures a place, that place becomes imbued with a richness, a mystery, and even a sense of celebrity,” wrote Hodge.
by Melissa Wyse; Illustrated by Kate Lewis
If getting lost in the lives—and living spaces—of artists seems an ideal way to pass long summer days, allow to be your fantasy conduit. This compact book delves into the intimacies and idiosyncrasies of the homes of ultra-famous artists like Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, and Henri Matisse, as well as those of several lesser well-known but equally-fascinating artists such self-taught American painter Clementine Hunter. Let’s stop right here to clarify that there are actually no photographs of these spaces in the book, if that’s what you’re after. Instead, we’re brought on a journey of the imagination through the delightful and plentiful illustrations of Kate Lewis and the richly descriptive prose of Melissa Wyse. Wyse is a researcher and spent years penning notes about these artists’ homes, only to meet Lewis in a residency program, setting off this utterly original collaboration, which is itself an exploration of how the places we inhabit can affect our creative selves.
by Yolanda Zappaterra
is a guide to hundreds upon hundreds of art and culture experiences all around the world, from far-flung art destinations to unforgettable sculpture parks. While travel might not be quite what we were hoping for this summer, this book lets planner types draw up their perfect itineraries for the future, whether it’s an excursion to see recycled ceramics at the Rock Garden of Chandigarh in northern India or a misty journey to Naoshima, Japan’s art island. The book also includes trails that trace important spots in famous artist’s lives or guides to seeking out the lesser-known treasures in museum collections. Even for the art-know-it-all, this book is full of discoveries waiting to be made.
by Amber Share
Amber Share’s viral art project pairs classic design with hilariously disappointed reviews of some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the U.S. The book features the full selection of her clever poster designs immortalizing ridiculous complaints such as “save yourself some money, boil some water at home” about Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park. As an added bonus, you can also learn a bit about each of the nation’s 62 national parks in this visually pleasing celebration of the great outdoors.