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Hand-picked as current favorites by Sotheby’s Institute faculty, here are eight books to round out your summer reading list, from surrealism to YBAs, and archeological adventures to celebrity culture.

The Seventy Great Journeys in History
by Robin Hanbury-Tenison

Recommended by David Bellingham, Program Director of MA Art Business

This book includes contributions by some of my favourite archaeologists, historians and adventurers and describes journeys from way back in the stone age to Mars and beyond. Although many of the journeys are colonising missions, reading this is paradoxically a great way to think about decolonisation, shared humanity and global art worlds.

Revolution of the Mind: The Life of Andre Breton
by Mark Polizzotti

Recommended by Morgan Falconer, Program Director of MA Contemporary Art

Surrealism can sometimes seem like a bizarre, inexplicable, almost childish movement, but Polizzotti's biography of its founder, the so-called "Pope" of Surrealism, Andre Breton, explains it in enthralling detail. From Breton's early experiences of psychiatry to his encounters with legendary literary eccentrics, it's a fascinating and enlightening read.

Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen
by Greg Jenner

Recommended by Joe Watson, Director of Lifelong and Continuing Education

Summer reading with serious undertones. Dead Famous comes from the same clever mind as the BBC history podcast You’re Dead To Me, which presents a wry and often joyous view of history. Jenner’s latest offering takes the same approach, illuminating the long view of celebrity through serious historical work overlaid with prose and polemic that can’t help but engage its reader (the description of Gertrude Stein as “the modernist Miley Cyrus, minus the twerking” gives you a clue to his style). Beyond his wit, Jenner neatly crosses centuries and geographies constructing a nuanced picture of the pact between the individual, the media and the public that adds up to celebrity. As institutions from museums and auction houses generate exhibitions and sales specifically around celebrities, and artists themselves wield their celebrity status for political and other means, this book has much to tell us about how and why celebrity sells and influences – and why that’s probably always been the case.

Bolt From The Blue
by Jeremy Cooper

Recommended by David Bellingham, Program Director of MA Art Business

Fictional but convincingly realistic correspondence (postcards and emails) between an English mother and her artist daughter over the last thirty years covering the emergence of the YBAs (Young British Artists) and brilliantly evoking the highs and lows of a young woman artist during ‘Cool Britannia’ and the renaissance of the British/London art world.

Bernard Berenson: A life in the picture trade
by Rachel Cohen

Recommended by Jonathan Woolfson, Director of Sotheby's Institute of Art

This book tells the extraordinary story of how Bernhard Valvrojenskis, born in Butrymancy in 1865, the son of a peddler, in the heartland of Ashkenazi Lithuania, transformed himself into Bernard Berenson (always known as ‘BB’), the refined and sophisticated connoisseur of Italian Renaissance art, the friend of Edith Warton and Isabella Steward Gardiner, and the associate of Joseph Duveen - the greatest picture seller of his age. Accumulating wealth and reputation, Berenson was indirectly responsible for the placing of many great Italian works in American collections. He nevertheless remained prone to self-doubt and depression, as he struggled to reconcile his humble origins with his worldly success, and his devotion to pure scholarship with the wealth acquired from art advising.

A Year in the Art World
by Matthew Israel

Recommended by Kay Chubbuk, Director of Global Online Programs

An insider’s perspective on the global art market including fascinating anecdotes gained from interviews and real-world experiences in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Hong Kong, and online. This book is meant to be the 2020s update to the classic Seven Days in the Art World, and it is organized around similar topics and themes.

Enrichment: A Critique of Commodities
by Luc Boltanski & Arnaud Esquerre

Recommended by Federica Carlotto, Program Director of MA Luxury Business

The compelling analysis of culture, heritage creation and place branding as the new frontiers of value production in many European countries. After the “economies of scale and costs," art, luxury, and tourism are now being enriched to serve the quest for sophisticated objects and meaningful experiences.

The “Black Art” Renaissance: African Sculpture and Modernism Across Continents
by Joshua I Cohen

Recommended by Bernard Vere, Program Director of MA in Fine and Decorative Art and Design

This is a really great book. It manages to shed new light on the importance of African art to Matisse and Picasso, which is itself an achievement, but its real interest is in establishing a series of networks through which images are transmitted and reworked, whether in Paris, the Harlem Renaissance, South Africa or the School of Dakar, reinforcing the idea that a global art is not a new thing and does not have to be centred on the West.

*Image Source: Fragonard, Jean-Honoré. Young Girl Reading. c. 1770, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

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