If you read one book this year…

On 23/12/2013 by Site Default
Art-world luminaries, from Eli Broad and Marina Warner to Tim Marlow and Xu Bing, pick the best art books they read in 2013…

Mark Jones
Masterpieces of Chinese Painting, Hongxing Zhang, V&A Publishing, 360pp, £40 (hb)

Chinese painting is everywhere, but the great classical tradition of painting in China is surprisingly invisible and little known. This book, which grew out of the exhibition at the V&A (until 19 January), is full of ravishingly beautiful paintings which remind us that a tradition once seen in the West as unchanging and dull, gave birth to some of the most astonishingly original images ever made. Here are ideas about the relation between illusion and reality, the two and three dimensional, the object represented and the gesture recorded on paper, all of which seemed new to Western artists in the 19th century. The relationship between text, the canon from which it is drawn and the image to which it relates is at once astonishingly similar to ­– and fascinatingly unlike – the realisation of similar ideas in the European Renaissance. And a tradition of the artist as outsider, withdrawn from and critical of the apparatus of power and the culture of the court, irresistibly reminds us of the emergence of the romantic conception of the artist in Europe, centuries later and in circumstances which could hardly have been more different.

Xu Bing
Book From the Ground: Point to Point, Xu Bing, Guangxi Normal University Press, 112pp, RMB48

Book From the Ground: Point to Point is a proper, ISBN-accredited publication, yet it is unconventional in that it does not feature a single “ordinary” word—not even on the copyright page. Its content is derived from marks and symbols that have been collected, filed and catalogued from all around the world, weaving a day-in-the-life account of the peculiar life of a certain “Mr Black” a white-collar worker living in a modern metropolis. You can read this book no matter where you are or what language you speak—it treats everyone in our contemporary world with absolute equality. Book From the Ground also exemplifies my vision of the future of languages, and the ideal of one language shared by all.



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