Is this a wish list? It's not, because all of the books that I mention below are stacked in my own library. I am an avid reader and I love beautiful books. Ever since entering a second hand book store in San Francisco at the age of fifteen, I'm lost to words, to turning pages, to reading and feeling. As a fashion journalist I often come in cities with wonderful musea and galleries. My schedule is often pretty hectic (full of fashion shows to go to or people to interview) but I try to squeeze in visits to exhibitions. I am that person whom you'll see coming in, taking a deep breath and then going from piece to piece, sometimes in a hurry, sometimes forgetting time, losing myself in the universe of an artist. Here are ten books that have a prominent position in my library. Books that I often take with me on trips, because they feed me. I hope you enjoy them.
I saw her work in the Tate gallery in London and was amazed by the strenghth it evokes. I must say I had never ever heard of her, although she is one of the leading sculptors of the 20th century. Hepworth worked her way through the 1920s and 1930s, conceiving sculpture as an experience in landscape. For her, a sculpture was linked to architecture. The book is full of interviews and personal comments on her work. One quote that lasts: "The gold gives the quality of radiance and expresses my deep interest in a new sense of poetry in our scientific age." (she wrote it in 1966)
Barbara Hepworth Writings and conversations, edited by Sophie Bowness, ISBN 978-1-84976-330-1
Lee Miller has been a muse for lots of fashion designers, who often talk about her in absolute awe. Miller started out as a model, became the lover of Man Ray, yet developed into a brillant Surrealist photographer. She had many lives, even as a war correspondent. I like her work: a woman with a hand in her hair on a terrace in Paris. Why not? Even the pictures she took of perfumes make her stand out as a photographer. Going through the book feels like entering her archives. I adore it.
The Lives of Lee Miller, by Antony Penrose, published by Thames and Hudson, ISBN 0-500-27509-2
I must say I had the address of the Noguchi Museum in Queens, NY, on my list for a very long time. When I finally got to the museum on a sunny Sunday morning in September, I wanted to stay. The area itself (the garden!) feels like a peaceful heaven in a city that really never sleeps. Noguchi is a sculptor of many things. He even designs settings for theatre and dance companies (Martha Graham). His mentor was Brancusi and I guess that says it all...
Isamu Noguchi Essays and Conversations, published by the Isamu Noguchi Foundation, ISBN 0-8109-2582-6
The American realist painter Edward Hopper (1882-1967) was a very reclusive artist, who rarely spoke about his private life. This little, yet very nice, publication is all about 58 previously unknown love letters from Alta Hilsdale, a young woman who fell in love with the artist. I bought the small book in The Whitney Museum and read it entirely during one evening. Loved it from the first words...
My Dear Mr.Hopper, Edited by Elisabeth Thompson Colleary, ISBN 978-0-300-18148-7
Ai Weiwei probably is the best-known living artist from China. In this small book, he talks about freedom of expression, art and activism, the digital world, the government, power and making moral choices. On every page is a quote from the artist, which is always linked to his (quite political) work. I'm not the biggest fan of his work - from an aesthetic point of view I'm never impressed with what I see. But I must admit I admire the concept behind his art. As he says in one of the book quotes: "I spend very little time doing art as art.'
Weiwei-isms, by Ai Weiwei, edited by Larry Warsh, ISBN 978-0-691-15766-5
Margaret Wood was only 24 when she started working as a companion and caregiver to Georgia O'Keeffe. The artist was 89 at the time and living at her Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, in New Mexico, where she spent most of her life, painting, cooking and receiving dinner guests. The book is a memoir of the five years Miss Wood lived by her side. Reading the book, I have added the New Mexico ranch (and learning more about this remarkable artist who was married to the famous photographer Stieglitz) to my bucket list.
Remembering Miss O'Keeffe, stories from Abiquiu, by Margaret Wood, published by the Museum of New Mexico Press, ISBN 978-0-89013-546-4
Gabrielle Chanel knew what she was talking about when she said: ‘Il y a tout dans la femme, et il y a toutes les femmes dans Misia’. Misia Sert was probably the only friend Chanel ever had (and supported). Paul Morand also had his quote: ‘Misia is Misia’. She hardly needed a family name, although she had quite a few in her promiscuous life. Misia loved art and literature and became a muse to artists like Toulouse-Lautrec, Cocteau, Vuillard and Renoir, to name just a few. The memoir is a treasure of information for art scholars and costume historians alike. I love reading parts of it, just before bedtime.
Misia The life of Misia Sert by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale, published by Macmillan in London, ISBN 0333281659
One of my best friend’s daughter works at the David Zwirner Gallery in London, so last time I was there, I laid eyes on a work of Suzan Frecon and fell in love with her wonderful juxtaposition of colour. She makes me think of how Consuelo Castiglione of Marni puts colours together in her fashion collection. In the book Suzan says something that strikes me as very true: ‘I believe you can only understand paintings by actually seeing them – that’s to say, the reality of the painting. That’s what painters try to realize.’ The book itself is beautifully edited: highlighted works of art, a lay out that’s very well done, a short tekst of her own, and a few pictures of Suzan in her workshop (printed on completely different paper). Reasons enough for me to buy the book.
Suzan Frecon, oil paintings and sun, published by David Zwirner, ISBN: 978-1-941701-09-6
I first got to know the work of Sarah Morris during Paris Fashion Week, seeing some of her prints on handbags by Longchamp, the French accessories maker with whom the American artist collaborated last year. Then there was her exhibition in Leuven’s M Museum, which I visited and loved – by the way the exhibition (called Astros Hawk) runs until March 20th 2016. Morris is into geometrics and colours, bringing together a vast work of paintings and video, all of which come together in this book. What I liked as well, are some of the things that have been an inspiration to her, like Mary Benson and Pomo baskets or the Book of Kelts, all featured in the book.
Sarah Morris, Bye Bye Brazil, published by White Cube, ISBN: 978-1-906072-82-7
I came across this book on my first visit to the new Whitney Museum in Meatpacking District in New York. It never crossed my mind that women could have been that important for the making of and the establishing of a museum like the Whitney. The book talks about the fantastic collection of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (and how she opened her studio to a larger audience) but also about how a museum suddenly was the only option. Great read!
The Whitney Women, a family memoir, by Flora Miller Biddle, published by Arcade, ISBN 978-1-61145-402-4