What's the best pairing with coffee? Some say a pain du chocolat, some say a donut. I say - why not have both, while enjoying some beautiful art? Now I know that's not what coffee table books are really used as. They've become a home decor accessory to stack or arrange to brighten up a room, or perhaps a pedestal for that NEST candle? But that's not all they can be, they don't have to sit open gathering dust when you can actually be (gasp) reading them. Or at least, looking at all the beautiful art while you sip your coffee and eat a pastry. I've compiled some of my favorite coffee table books you'll want to read, although they look darn good up on the shelf too.
Jose Parlá: The Street Graffiti Artist That's Now In The ONE World Trade Center
Not many artists have literally been able to bring the streets into the most prestigious art galleries in the world. When I say that, I mean he actually brought scaffolding with graffiti into galleries as his medium, and it's hard not to fall in love. Parlá's work is bright, full of energy and light, and this book is a wonderful illustration of his journey as the son of Cuban immigrant parents in Miami to creating a 15ft x 90ft massive mural for the One World Trade Center.
Andrew Kuo: The (Hilarious) Artist That Will Make You Re-Evaluate Your Whole Life
I've never seen more elegant, or introspective, pie charts. It's a simple idea - divide up your day and thoughts, organize it, graph it. But the intensity of Kuo's comedic self reflection and often veiled criticism stands out as a never-ending trove of amusement. In the end, this visually-stunning book is a fascinating glimpse into Kuo's daily life that will have you wondering what's real and what's embellished. Pick this up when you want to smile, and sometimes laugh so hard you spit out your coffee.
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Shiraga & Motonaga: How To Make Friends and Influence People Using Your Feet
What do feet, smoke, and water have in common? Not much until artists from the Gutai Art Association started using all three to make stunning art. Shiraga and Motonaga, among others in the movement, used these unorthodox methods to create multi-dimensional works. Most Gutai artists didn't receive international recognition until after their deaths, and in the early 21st century their works were rediscovered by collectors as masterpieces. I have to admit - Shiraga is one of my favorite artists so I may be biased, but this book is a must have for those that love engaging compositions and discovering new artists. If you really insist, you may use it as a conversation-starting décor piece, just make sure to read the summary when speaking with an art lover.
Tyler Shields: Hollywood Elite and Burning Cars Seducing You Through a Book
A lot of glamour, champagne, explosions, and fake blood. What else to expect from "Hollywood's Favorite Photographer"? Shields has had a storied career full of controversy, and this book covers all of it. It will make you fall in love, be disgusted, a little confused, and a whole lotta satisfied in 320 pages. It features Hollywood starlets flying, falling, almost burning their tongue. Past that, it's as action-packed as a coffee table book can be, featuring a large variety of Shield's works. Disclosure: I had the pleasure of interviewing him here, so I am a big fan.
Art: If You Just Want To Cover It ALL
This is the exact opposite of my previous choices: it covers thousands of years of art in one book in lieu of one artist or one movement. If you're new to the whole art thing, and want to gain a broad view of art throughout the ages with some visual stimuli, buy this. It will give you a grand overview of art history, as well as concise artist biographies, techniques, intent, media, and composition. It's an art class in a book and a lot of fun to leaf through when you forget about Boucher's booty. As one reviewer said, and I agree, "Art History can be FUN!"
If you think there is a really great coffee table book I missed, please let me know! Email me at ekaterina.i.kouznetsova (@) gmail.com.
I included some books that almost made my top 5 below: