Books & Manuscripts

6 Asian Art Books to Read Now

By Wendy Smith

From a survey of the art of China to a catalogue on cutting-edge Korean works, Wendy Smith pages through the best of current Asian art books.

The Chinese Art Book 

Publisher Phaidon’s selection of 300 highlights culled from 5,000 years of Chinese art is notable for its stimulating juxtapositions, such as the majestic Song Dynasty vase that is opposite a sardonic 2003 photograph depicting a cluster of plastic toy doll heads on the next page. The marvelous diversity of forms selected—from ink landscapes, decorative vessels and calligraphy, to installations, performance art and video—illustrates the ongoing dialogue between contemporary Chinese artists and the traditions that both nourish and challenge them. Informative captions and a chronological timeline contextualise the individual works.

Phaidon, $59.95


by Valmiki 

A sumptuous, seven-volume collector’s edition from French publisher Diane de Selliers pairs a new, unabridged English translation of Hinduism’s founding epic, with 660 miniature paintings show-casing the glories of classical Indian art. Commentaries by Amina Taha Hussein-Okada, the Musée Guimet’s Indian
Art curator, decode the iconography and situate the paintings within Indian pictorial traditions. Reproduced in brilliant colour with pinpoint detail, the magnificent miniatures have been gathered from historic sources, including the earliest Mughal imperial manuscripts, the Rajput kingdoms and Deccan sultanates, as well as major museum collections.

Editions Diane de Selliers, €950 Euros

Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700-1900

by Zhang Hongxing

Drawn from important Chinese collections in Europe, America and China, this catalogue for a major exhibition at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum brings together classical works painted on fans, screens, banners and scrolls. Fine reproductions capture the physical texture of the silk and paper supports, as well as the subtle, delicate colouring; sensitive page layouts convey the artists’ masterful use of space, particularly in the horizontal format rarely found in Western painting. Essays by curator Zhang Hongxing and other scholars
provide valuable cultural and histor-ical background.

Victoria & Albert Museum Publishing, $60

Korean Eye 2012

by Lee Daehyung

The fourth annual exhibit of contemporary Korean art, originally launched at London’s Saatchi Gallery in 2009, is commemorated in this catalogue, noteworthy for thoughtful artists’ statements as well as striking images. There is a haunted, enigmatic quality to many of these works, which often seeks to create “a space for contemplation,” as Ahn Chul-Hyun puts it in a statement echoed by several others. Confidently using technology and natural materials alike, the artists engage viewers in a shared consideration of the fluid boundaries between reality and illusion.

Booth Clibborn/Abrams, $29.95

Hong Kong Eye: Contemporary Hong Kong Art

by Serena Ciclitira

The lively eclecticism of contemporary Hong Kong art is evident in Skira’s vibrant companion volume to a recent touring exhibition. Western modernism is a formative influence for many of these cosmopolitan, multicultural artists, though Chinese heritage remains important as they explore diverse styles in a dizzying array of media. Lee Kit, chosen to represent his native city at the 2013 Venice Biennale, is characteristic of the local scene in his adventurous roving from painting to installation to video, reflecting on aspects of everyday urban life.

Skira, $75

Shiro Kuramata

by Deyan Sudjic

A sleek two-volume set in an acrylic slipcase pays tribute to influential Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata, famous for his use of transparent materials in such signature pieces as the Glass Chair of 1976. Photographs of the 1983 Esprit House and other department-store projects in Volume One demonstrate that transparency and light were also important elements in Kuramata’s interiors. The text by Deyan Sudjic, director of London’s Design Museum, has the same elegant simplicity that makes Kuramata’s work so timeless; Volume Two catalogues his complete output, with individual photos.

Phaidon, $150 


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