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To make your life a little bit easier during the Christmas frenzy, here is a wonderful array of art books to give as holiday gifts. Trust me, your friends and family will be amused and entertained.

frida.jpgFrida Kahlo: Face to Face, by Judy Chicago, published by Prestel Publishing LTD, 2010
The first choice is the ultimate coffee table book about Frida Kahlo, written and designed by Judy Chicago. Everything about this book is appropriately over the top, and what else would you expect from one larger-than-life artist writing about another with an even bigger personality?

resnick.jpgEye for the Sensual: Selections from the Resnick Collection, Foreward by Michael Govan, published by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2010
The next choice would be the sumptuous catalog of the current exhibition at LACMA, "Eye for the Sensual," with the face of Marie Antoinette on the cover. This exhibition provides a rare glimpse at the private collection of Lynda and Stewart Resnick, which focuses mostly on masterpieces of European art from the 18th and 19th century.

gauguin.jpgGauguin: Maker of Myth, edited by Belinda Thompson, published by Princeton University Press, 2010
This is one book you’ll want to keep as a gift for yourself. It is the museum catalog of the mouth-watering exhibition "Gauguin: Maker of Myth," currently on display at the Tate Modern in London and later traveling to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

diaghilev-ballet.jpgDiaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909 – 1929, edited by Jane Pritchard, published by V&A Publishing, 2010
While we’re talking about London exhibitions, here is another stunner: the catalog of the current exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. This one - about Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russes - makes the heart of your Russian-born critic beat a little bit faster.

diaghilev-bio.jpgDiaghilev: A Life, by Sjeng Scheijen, published by Oxford University Press, 2010
If you want to know more about the amazing life of Sergei Diaghilev, who inspired and collaborated with the likes of Stravinsky and Picasso, Nijinsky and Pavlova, there is a new, colorful biography that tells it all. It reads like a good, old-fashioned novel.

castelli.jpgLeo & His Circle: The Life of Leo Castelli, by Annie Cohen-Solal, published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
And last but not least, the colorful portrait of yet another European ex-patriot who contributed mightily to American culture in the decades following World War II. This book is about the one and only Leo Castelli, whose New York gallery introduced to the world the likes of Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. His biography is the best read I can think of during the holiday season. It will introduce you to the fascinating and often slightly scandalous developments in the cultural history of the last century on both sides of the pond. You’ll want to keep this biography on your nightstand.

So good night, and Merry Christmas.

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