30,000 Years of Art

Phaidon Press had great success with The Art Book, an illustrated, pocket-size survey of the history of art from antiquity to the present. 30,000 Years of Art outdoes even that, with 1,062 pages and 1,000 illustrated plates, all in a massive coffee-table book that weighs in at 13.2 pounds (the latter according to my creaky bathroom scale). Beginning with the Lion Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel (Germany, 2800 B.C.) and the Venus of Willendorf (Austria, 2500 B.C.) and ending with James Turrell’s as-yet-unfinished project to transform the Roden Crater, an extinct volcano located in Arizona’s Painted Desert, into an observatory, the book offers an exhaustive comparative history of world art. (The first examples of art A.D. — a vase from Thailand and an Italian fresco — don’t even show up until page 310). The appendix offers a timeline showing developments throughout each part of the world. This is the kind of book that offers, say, the paintings of Monet and Manet juxtaposed against a Malaysian headboard and a Monaggan mask in the section on late-19th-century art. The contrasts throughout are fascinating and instructive. As a reference for scholars, a tutorial for students of any age, or simply tabletop entertainment to flip through at will, this book is, pound for pound, the most thorough and comprehensive art course one is likely to find between two covers. –