If you’ve got that back to school feeling or just want some reading recommendations for the fall, check out our faculty choices for must-read books on art world topics!
Subject Leader in Photography, Sotheby's Institute of Art – London
Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Vintage Classics, 1993 (1980)
(first published in French as La Chambre Claire by Editions de Seuil 1980)
This is a classic of photographic theory. It is accessibly written and yet is full of complex ideas about how photographs act upon us. Set out as an investigation into the nature of photography, Barthes’ theories of the studium and the punctum were central to photographic theory for many years. Although a number of his propositions have now been critiqued (including his understanding of how photographs are made) his ideas provoke trains of thought in the reader that rise above the empirical. Barthes’ last book, Camera Lucida is a meditation not just on photography but on life, love and loss.
Sarah Conley Odenkirk
Associate Director, Sotheby's Institute of Art – Los Angeles
Sophie Calle, The Address Book. Siglio Press, 2012
In the early 1980s, French artist Sophie Calle found an address book in the streets of Paris which belonged to a man whom she did not know, but referred to as Pierre D. Calle photocopied the book, returned the original to Pierre and then proceeded to call each of the people listed in the address book and ask them questions about Pierre D. Using the information she gathered, Calle began publishing, in serial form, essays detailing the interviews and the information she learned about Pierre D. As soon as Pierre D. realized that the essays were about him, he was understandably furious and demanded that Calle not only stop publishing the weekly essays, but that as an act of recompense, she publish nude photos of herself. As a result of Pierre D.’s demands, Calle agreed not to publish the work until after his death.
I have my students in Legal Foundations read this book so that we can discuss the nexus between artistic practice and privacy rights. This book allows us to think about whether there is or should be a limit placed on artistic expression when it comes to using raw material that is personal to the subject matter of the expression. Is the ability of an artist to freely create and comment on anything more important than any one individual’s privacy? Is the fact that the work is created without “Pierre D.’s” knowledge or permission crucial to the concept of the work? These and other questions are not only interesting to ponder from a legal standpoint, but also help us frame the way that we treat conceptual work with human subjects.
Director, Sotheby’s Institute of Art – London
Georgina Adam, Big Bucks: The Explosion of the Art Market in the 21st Century. Lund Humphries, 2014
Since the turn of the millennium, and the dramatic shift in the scale and scope of the art market, many publications have sought to consider the impact of this phenomenon on both the art world and the art market – particularly the unparalleled expansion of the contemporary art market.
During this period a number of studies have focused on the art market. Georgina Adam’s book examines the current state of the art market and considers both key players: auction-houses, dealers, artists and ‘taste-makers’ and key determinants in a changing market place with an emphasis on contemporary art and the rise of art fairs, online sales, the impact of emerging markets and new buyers and issues around transparency and market regulation. This book is a terrific and highly readable introduction to what sometimes appears to be an opaque art world and Georgina Adam effectively communicates some of the excitement which those of us lucky fortunate to work in this field experience.
MA Contemporary Art Faculty, Sotheby's Institute of Art – London
Jens Hoffmann ed., Ten Fundamental Questions of Curating. Mousse Publishing, Milan, 2013
Wide-ranging texts by prominent curators on different aspects of their trade. This anthology is a good introduction to current debates around curating, packed as it is with acute observations on recent shifts in both theory and practice. One highlight is Maria Lind’s chapter on the divergent priorities of large and small spaces (on this topic, see also Size Matters by the research collective Common Practice).
Librarian, Sotheby's Institute of Art – London
Anna M. Dempster ed., Risk and Uncertainty in the Art World. Bloomsbury, 2014
This is a popular title with our students and was one of our most borrowed books in the library in the last academic year.
It grew from a conference held at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London, in 2011. It contains several essays each written by an expert in their field, and overall they give a broad overview of the risks in the art market. This includes questions of authenticity, risks within the expanding global art market, regulatory risks, investments risks on stamps and violins, and it also looks back into the past such as describing a dealer ring in Paris in the 18th century.