Lives of the Artists

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Whether writing about Jasper Johns or Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman or Richard Serra, Calvin Tomkins shows why it is both easier and more difficult to make art today. If art can be anything, where do you begin?

For more than three decades Calvin Tomkins’s incisive profiles in The New Yorker have given readers the most satisfying reports on contemporary art and artists available in any language. In Lives of the Artists ten major artists are captured in Tomkins’s cool and ironic style...

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Lives of the Artists: Portraits of Ten Artists Whose Work and Lifestyles Embody the Future of Contemporary Art

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Overview

Whether writing about Jasper Johns or Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman or Richard Serra, Calvin Tomkins shows why it is both easier and more difficult to make art today. If art can be anything, where do you begin?

For more than three decades Calvin Tomkins’s incisive profiles in The New Yorker have given readers the most satisfying reports on contemporary art and artists available in any language. In Lives of the Artists ten major artists are captured in Tomkins’s cool and ironic style to record the new directions art is taking during these days of limitless freedom. As formal technique and rigorous training continue to fall away, art has become an approach to living. As the author says, “the lives of contemporary artists are today so integral to what they make that the two cannot be considered in isolation.”

Among the artists profiled are Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, the reigning heirs of deliberately outrageous art that feeds off the allegedly corrupting influences of capitalist glut and entertainment; Matthew Barney of the pregenital obsessions; Cindy Sherman, who manages multiple transformations as she disappears into her own work; and Julian Schnabel, who has forged a second career as award-winning film director. Tomkins shows that the making of art remains among the most demanding jobs on earth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is art history live."—Massimiliano Gioni, Director of Special Exhibitions, The New Museum of Contemporary Art

"To match Tomkins in art of the brief life for keenness of wit and sharpness of observation, one must go back to Lytton Strachey."—Louis Auchincloss

"Tomkins’s access is astonishing . . . A deft biographer, he gives a lesson in his craft: how to balance present with past, the specific with the general, personality with context, features with flaws—all in the space of 20 pages. Tomkins is a ruthless observer. . . . He is also a generous critic of the cult of artistic personality. . . . Books [from] the New Yorker have become a small industry, but not all are as intimate as this one."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Publishers Weekly

In these biographical essays on 10 of the most interesting contemporary artists, Tomkins's access is astonishing, as when he dines with Jasper Johns and his wife in their Caribbean home in St. Martin, watches John Currin paint or receives revealing gifts from Maurizio Cattelan ("he loves giving odd presents to his friends.... His gifts to my wife include a large three-dimensional display ad for Oscar Mayer franks..."). A deft biographer, Tomkins (Duchamp) gives a lesson in his craft: how to balance present with past, the specific with the general, personality with context, features with flaws-all in the space of 20 pages. Tomkins is a ruthless observer. On Cindy Sherman watching a slasher movie, he writes: "She slides down in her seat like a teenager, knees pulled up, and giggles at the gory parts and the in jokes...." He is also a generous critic of the cult of artistic personality, so that Julian Schnabel's ego appears charming and Richard Serra's notorious anger seems a measure of his dedication to his work. Books that trade on content that originally appeared in the New Yorker have become a small industry, but not all are as intimate as this one. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805088724
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 5.72 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Calvin Tomkins has written more than a dozen books, including The Bride and the Bachelors, the bestseller Living Well Is the Best Revenge, and the critically acclaimed biography, Duchamp. He lives in New York City with his wife, Dodie Kazanjian.

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Table of Contents

Damien Hirst

Cindy Sherman

Julian Schnabel

Richard Serra

James Turrell

Matthew Barney

Maurizio Cattelan

Jasper Johns

Jeff Koons

John Currin

Acknowledgments

Index

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Customer Reviews

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