What all art students should be reading right now

There’s already several hundred articles promoting art books, art market publications, artist biographies and so on — all of which are arguably more or less fundamental reading. We have asked a number of art world figures — including gallerists, artists, professors, critics — what all art students should be reading right now — whether they’re books about art or not.

Eric Booker — Exhibition Coordinator at the Studio Museum in Harlem

“While coming to terms with our new political reality here in the U.S., I came across a book called Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation. Written by Jonathan Lear, a professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago, the author tells the story of Plenty Coups, the last great Chief of the Crow Nation, who in the late nineteenth century faced the potential collapse of his culture as the American government effectively outlawed their way of life and stripped them on their land.”

“This idea of ‘radical hope’, which Lear describes as a hope ‘that is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is’ is a very powerful idea. Plenty Coup’s hope allowed him to radically reimagine the Crow way of life in a rapidly changing America. I think this book offers us a path forward at this moment in time, and provides artists with an allegory for how they might work to create new and vibrant ways to live in the future.”




Mónica Manzutto & José Kuri — Founders of Kurimanzutto, Mexico City

For José Kuri, Painting as Model by Yve-Alain Bois is key reading. “It just gives structure to everything else.” The book is a study of modernism, from Picasso and Matisse to Abstract painting.
As for Mónica Manzutto, she suggests works from the Alias collection to all art students: “the selection of texts is all important, in whatever language they read”.

Alex Schady Fine Art Programme — Programme Leader à la Central Saint Martins


According to Alex Schady, Meeting the universe halfway by karen Barad is fundamental reading for any art student. Barad is an American feminist theorist and physicist and her research is based on the work of Niels Bohr, (Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922) which she has revisited in light of today’s theories in physics, science and philosophy, as well as through the lens of social feminism.

In addition, The Atrocity Exhibition by J. G. Ballard is also among Schady’s favorites. This experimental novel intertwines violence, technology and celebrity, in what is an almost prophetic work.
Lastly, Schady believes that the 2017 Labour Manifesto and The 120 Days of Sodom are also necessary reading for all art majors. Surprised?

Finally, two suggestions by Parisian gallery mfc-michèle didier — which also specializes in independent print publications

First off, The Radicant by Nicolas Bourriaud. The curator, writer and art critic, who was at the helm of the Palais de Tokyo between 2000 and 2006 and today director of La Panacée, the School of Fine Arts and the future Contemporary Art Center in Montpellier, believes that “artists from all countries are now tasked with creating the first example of a truly global culture”. In The Radicant, the author discusses the concept of “altermodernity”, based on what Bourriaud defines as today’s “globalized perception”.
For French-speaking audiences, michèle didier also suggests Extrême : esthétiques de la limite dépassée by art historian, curator and writer Paul Ardenne. The work explores our need for emotions — and especially strong sensations — that are necessary to grab the attention of an audience. According to Ardenne, this emotional extremism has influenced art, but also the extreme aesthetics of the Western world as a whole.
Text by Henri Robert