Is there any more joyful and stressful time than the end-of-the-year Holiday Season? Friends, relatives, colleagues - all of them have to be hugged, sent love notes, and even given special gifts. I hate crowds, and I hate shopping. But, I have a secret; how not only to avoid the stress connected with holiday shopping, but instead, to enjoy it. Yes, to enjoy Holiday shopping! Are you ready? Do you have a pen and paper handy? Here it comes...
My friends, if you want to buy something adventurous, amusing, and relatively inexpensive, I advise you to go to museum book and gift shops. Here in LA, even relatively small museums, such as the Santa Monica Museum of Art and the Fowler Museum at UCLA, have an amazing selection of gifts you would never find in any other place.
And, books. All those gorgeous coffee-table art books. Here is a list of my 10 favorite art books that ended up crushing my coffee table this year.
1. George Seurat The Drawings, an exhibition catalog published by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2007. It's simply impossible just to look at these reproductions of Seurat's drawings without wanting to touch the pages to experience the unique texture of his crayon drawings, with their silhouetted figures dissolving into the mysterious depths of a flat page.
2. Matisse: Radical Invention 1913 - 1917, an exhibition catalog published the Art Institute of Chicago, 2010. This massive book with 650 illustrations is a treasure-trove of information about an early and most important period in the career of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.
3. Picasso Looks at Degas, an exhibition catalog published by Clark Art Institute, 2010. It's well known that the only artist whom Picasso considered to be his equal and competitor was Matisse. But, this book reveals Picasso's fascination with another artist, Degas, especially Degas' brothel monotypes, which Picasso acquired towards the end of his life.
4. Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky, an exhibition catalog published by Prestel, 2014. We were lucky to see and enjoy this amazing exhibition here at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The reproduction of Kees van Dongen's "Opera Singer" on its cover reminds me that as a teenager, I fell in love with modern art, thanks to van Dongen's paintings at the Hermitage Museum.
5. Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years 1953 - 1966, an exhibition catalog published in association with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in association with Yale University Press, 2013. I hope you had a chance to see this traveling exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum earlier this year. It was a revelation for me to see so many early figurative paintings by Diebenkorn; especially those he painted in response to a trip to the Hermitage Museum in the 60s.
6. Thomas Houseago: What Went Down, an exhibition catalog published by Modern Art Oxford, 2010. The work of this well-known Los Angeles artist has the ability to challenge, and even scare you a little bit, at your first encounter with his mostly figurative sculptures. But, it's simply impossible to erase them from your memory.
7. Kandinsky and the Harmony of Silence: Painting with White Border, an exhibition catalog published by the Phillips Collection in association with Yale University Press, 2011. This book focuses on his early painting from the collection of the Guggenheim Museum, as well as 15 preparatory studies in watercolor. All of them inspired by Kandinsky's native Moscow.
8. Mark Bradford, an exhibition catalog published by Wexner Center of the Arts in association with Yale University Press, 2010. There is still a mystery for us in LA - why didn't this major traveling exhibition of one of the best-known Los Angeles artists, winner of the MacArthur "Genius Grant," make it to our City of Angels?
9. Doug Aitken: 100 Yrs, a monograph published by Rizzoli, 2014. Aitken is another world-renown Los Angeles-based artist, and this book provides an eloquent mid-career survey of his achievements in video, photography, and sculpture.
And, ladies and gentleman, let's not forget that we live in a city not only full of Angels, but also crowded with Hollywood Gods. And for the pleasure of seeing them all, you must indulge yourself in the survey of the 60-year career of legendary Hollywood photographer Douglas Kirkland, A Life in Pictures. Marlene Dietrich, Orson Welles, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Nicole Kidman, Marilyn Monroe - they are all there...
With that in mind, let me, once again, wish you Happy Happy Holidays.
Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.