Who becomes famous in the history of art? This children’s book balances the scales

Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

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There’s a new art museum containing works from around the world that date back 40,000 years – but you won’t have to stand all day or keep your distance from the crowds to explore.

An illustrated book, “The Ultimate Art Museum“, is displayed in 18 galleries, organized like the arrangement of an encyclopedic institution. It is intended to introduce intermediate readers – ages 8 to 14 – to the stoic statues of ancient civilization, the delicate ink brushwork on the silk of East Asia, the intricate architecture of the regions Islamic, the drama of European baroque paintings and the dreamy color fields of postmodernism. But this is not your typical art history lesson.

“I tried to choose works of art that really epitomized the themes of the gallery – a lot of them are very famous, but there are also some unexpected choices that will hopefully introduce readers to something. again, ”the author, art historian Ferren Gipson, said in an email. “It was also important for me to represent various artists, ideas and styles from around the world, so I was very conscious of including work by female artists and people of color throughout the museum.”

“The Ultimate Art Museum” is a study of art from prehistoric times to the present day. Credit: Phaidon

Many introductions and studies in art history focus on the Western world – advances in Europe, in particular – but Gipson balances the scales, with an equal place given to the arts of East Asia and from South, Africa, Islamic regions and indigenous communities. . In twentieth-century art, she shines a light on black women and artists for whom recognition has come late, including abstract expressionist Lee Krasner and folk-influenced painter William H. Johnson.

“Feminist Art,” “Chicanx Art” and “Australian Aboriginal Art” feature among the pages of the book’s contemporary galleries, and artists Gipson chooses to portray at the current time include Amy Sherald, Alice Neel, Kerry James Marshall, and Yoshitomo Nara. (There is no Jeff Koons in sight.)

"I was keenly aware of including works by women artists and people of color throughout the museum," said Gipson.

“I was very conscious of including works by women artists and people of color throughout the museum,” Gipson said. Credit: Phaidon

Gipson also emphasizes cultural ties between works from different eras or countries, as well as ties to contemporary pop culture (such as Beyonce taking inspiration from Pipilotti Rist’s 1997 video installation, “Ever is Over All”).

“I liked placing works side by side that would not usually be shown together in a real museum,” she said. “There are galleries that show how European artists drew inspiration from 19th century Japanese woodcuts or how Picasso drew his ideas from African masks. “

Gipson believes he is in good company at a time when art history is being reassessed in his teaching. “There are a lot of people doing an exciting job right now to bring out different art stories that have long been under-represented on a more traditional scale, and I think that’s exciting and necessary,” said she declared.

The ultimate art museum, published by Phaidon, is available now.

Add to Queue: Accessible Art

Listen: “Questions of art” (2018-2020)

Gipson used to host this bimonthly podcast that explored how art history enriches everything around us in pop and visual culture. The episodes included the art and design of the modern Olympics and how costume designers in films draw inspiration from the history of art.

Read: “The Art Book” (2020)

The Tome of Famous Phaidon Artists has been updated and expanded several times, with the latest version released last year. It lists in alphabetical order 600 artists from medieval times to the present day, presenting a key work for each. The most recent addition adds contemporary figures including Jenny Saville, Mark Bradford and Wolfgang Tillmans, as well as previously overlooked talents like Hilma af Klint.

Read: “Why is art full of naked people? By Susie Hodge (2016)

This manual for readers ages 10 and up asks the tough questions about art history, such as “What’s with all the fruits?” And “Why is art so strange these days?” The 22 questions presented in the book are intended to make young readers curious about art.

To concern: “Black Art: In the absence of light” (2021)

This HBO documentary was directed by Sam Pollard and was inspired by the 1976 exhibition “Two Centuries of Black American Art”, curated by the late David Driskell. He offers interviews with artists, including Faith Ringgold, Amy Sherald and Carrie Mae Weems.

Read: “Women in Art: 50 fearless creators who inspired the world” by Rachel Ignotofsky (2019)

For readers aged 10 and over, “Women in Art” features 50 famous and under-represented personalities from diverse backgrounds. Together, they represent a group of innovative artists who have not always been fully recognized for their achievements.


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