5 Conversation-Starting Art Books for Your Coffee Table

Looking for an accent to your living room that will both impress your guests and inspire thought-provoking discussion? From exploring the practice of an artist who makes paintings from dismantled book covers to a social experiment captured in poignant photographs, check out our list of top new art books worth adding to your collection.

1. Doug Aitken 100YRS

Divided into four major sections—Landscape, Time, Form, and Individual—this book explores the stylistic influences of multimedia artist Doug Aitken. Devoid of captions, Doug Aitken 100YRS instead relies on the compelling narratives so often found throughout his diverse body of work. Included are interviews between Aitken and curator Hans Ulrich Obrist that delve into his practice, along with chapter introductions written by renowned art historians, critics, and curators.

2. Richard Renaldi: Touching Strangers 

How about a volume of photographs showing strangers intimately embracing? Since 2007, Richard Renaldi has been inviting pairs of people to pose together in ways that are usually reserved for close friends, family, and significant others. In Jeromy and Matthew, 2011, Columbus, OH (2011), for example, one young man sits at a picnic table while another man stands behind him, resting his hand on his shoulder. Though it sounds uncomfortable, Richard Renaldi: Touching Strangers delivers a thought-provoking series that questions our ability to foster relationships in a diverse society.

3. 1968: Radical Italian Furniture

Like any great design book, 1968: Radical Italian Furniture—the latest project from artist Maurizio Cattelan and photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari’s Toilet Paper—is as much a statement as the furniture within it. “This is not a book, it’s an object,” Cattelan toldT: New York Times Style Magazine. Printed on thick, cardboard pages and presented in a box, the book showcases the dazzling, surreal designs from an era that gave us a couch resembling tall blades of grass and a cactus coat rack.

4. Michaël Borremans: As Sweet as It Gets

Michaël Borremans’ work can be characterized by its strange, yet haunting beauty. Published in conjunction with his mid-career retrospective showing at three locations this year, Michaël Borremans: As Sweet as It Gets explores the recurring motifs, techniques, and colors found in his work. In addition, it includes an in-depth interview between the artist and the book’s author, Jeffrey Grove, along with essays by prominent writers, curators, filmmakers, and musicians.

5. Paul Chan: New New Testament

For the first time, Paul Chan’s paintings from his project “Volumes” have been compiled into one book. This tome includes more than 1,000 of his paintings of dismantled book covers—in a sense; they are books within a book. The monumental series considers how books and works of art now exist in a world proliferated by digital media. Paul Chan: New New Testament is also published in tandem with his ongoing show—which features a full wall of his dismantled book covers—at the Schaulager in Basel, Switzerland.

Newlin Tillotson

Covers courtesy of Hatje Cantz publishers; Aperture Foundation; Rizzoli; Deste Foundation; and Badlands Unlimited

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