The Best Holiday Gifts for Your Smart Friends

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I always think about December – with Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa – as a special month of the year. I am sure that your calendar is busy with parties you have promised to attend. Have you thought about holiday gifts for your friends – where to go, what to buy? My choice, as usual, is to find some very interesting books about art and to give them as holiday gifts to my smart friends. Here are my choices for books to impress your smart friends.

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“Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly” by Joshua Rivkin. Photo by Edward Goldman.

Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly by Joshua Rivkin is a fascinating biography of one of the most celebrated and “famously guarded” American artists. From his time at the legendary Black Mountain College, to his explorations of Rome, and his friendship and relationship with Robert Rauschenberg, this biography unveils for the first time the many complexities of Twombly’s artistic and personal life.

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“The Caesar of Paris: Napoleon Bonaparte, Rome, and the Artistic Obsession that Shaped an Empire” by Susan Jaques. Image courtesy Pegasus Books.

The new biography of Napoleon by Susan Jaques, The Caesar of Paris, presents Napoleon Bonaparte as a person obsessed with the history and culture of Rome, and his attempts to turn Paris into the “new Rome” through architectural and artistic commissions. If the name Susan Jaques rings a bell, it’s because a couple years ago, she published a biography of Catherine the Great, The Empress of Art, who transformed Russia and built the foundation for the Hermitage Museum.

“The Renaissance Nude” Edited by Thomas Kren with Jill Burke and Stephen J. Campbell. Assisted by Andrea Herrera and Thomas DePasquale. Image courtesy

The monumental catalog for the current blockbuster exhibition at The Getty Museum, The Renaissance Nude, will crush your friend’s coffee table (and maybe even your own, as well). There are paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints by the biggest names among the artists from the early 15th to the early 16th century. Inspired by ancient Greek and Roman art, European Renaissance artists presented the naked human body as the central subject of their art.

Physical Poetry Alphabet by Douglas and Francoise Kirkland. Image courtesy Sylph Editions.

And, talking about beauty… not of the Renaissance, but the beauty of our time. Have you ever thought about the English alphabet as inspiration for romance between the human body and letters? Douglas Kirkland, one of the most acclaimed Hollywood photographers, in collaboration with his wife, Francoise Kirkland, and dancer Erika Lemay, has published an art book, Physical Poetry Alphabet. This book definitely makes a good gift for your adult friends, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to give to your grandchildren learning to read…

“Henry Taylor” Contribution by Sarah Lewis and Charles Gaines and Zadie Smith and Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah. Image courtesy Rizzoli USA.

Los Angeles artist Henry Taylor, one of the best-known American figurative painters, is the subject of a massive book, titled, The Only Portrait I Ever Painted of My Momma Was Stolen. The life, the drama, and the challenges within African-American communities are the subject of his paintings. Over the past few years, we’ve seen several exhibitions of his works at Blum & Poe gallery. A solo exhibition of his works in one of the Los Angeles museums doesn’t seem far away…

L: Cover Page: “The Artist Observed” by Sidney B. Felsen. R: An open page of “The Artist Observed” by Sidney B. Felsen. Photos by Edward Goldman.

A few months ago, I talked about an exhibition of several hundred photographs by Sidney B. Felsen on display at Gemini G.E.L. As one of the founders of this celebrated printing workshop, Felsen captured private and informal moments with dozens of American artists engaged in producing new limited edition prints and sculptures. Felsen’s new book, The Artist Observed, gives you the sensation of being a fly on the wall, spying on Baldessari and Serra, Johns and Rauschenberg, Gehry and Hockney. How about that…



Kathleen Yore