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Summer Reading: Art Biographies

"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are." 

-Anaïs Nin

Welcome to the first installment of our suggested reading lists: a selection of notable biographies and memoirs of modern and contemporary artists, collectors, dealers and critics you could take to the beach. It's a rarely-boring, highly-personal journey into art history—and the books are characteristically not as heavy as exhibition catalogues!

The biographical approach to understanding works of art—or seeing links between artworks and the events of an artists' life—has taken a critical beating in the modern age. Historians and critics have chosen instead to pursue other ways of understanding meaning. However, the fact remains that biography continues to be relevant and fascinate, and it's arguably the root (and dirty secret) of art history. In fact, what is recognized as the first art-historical text was Giorgio Vasari’s 16th century Lives of the Artists, an account of Renaissance art organized by biography. 

The following accounts of art-world lives offer another reason as to why art keeps us endlessly, obsessively interested. (Again, the following is a selection and by no means a complete list. Feel free to tell us what biographies you would add.)

-Olivia-Jené FagonRebecca McGivney, and Sara Softness, Fellows on The Art Genome Project. 


Some suggested biographies...

A Life of Picasso (three volumes) by John Richardson

Bad Boy: My Life on and off the Canvas by Eric Fischl and Michael Stone

Self-Portrait by Man Ray

Lives of the Artists by Calvin Tomkins

A Short Life of Trouble by Marcia Tucker

Dear Theo: An Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh by Irving and Jean Stone

Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama by Yayoi Kusama and Ralph Mccarthy

Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees by Lawrence Weschler and Robert Irwin

Confessions of an Art Addict by Peggy Guggenheim

Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Clement Greenberg by Alice Goldfarb Marquis

When Marina Abramovic Dies: A Biography by James Westcott

Leo And His Circle: The Life of Leo Castelli by Annie Cohen Salal

Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz by Cynthia Carr

POPism: The Warhol Sixties by Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera

Night Studio: A Memoir of Philip Guston by Musa Mayer

J’aime Cheri Samba by Robert Storr and Andre Magnin