"Lives of the Artists"
By Calvin Tomkins (2008 ed.)
As the title suggests, this is a collection of ten biographical profiles (formerly published in TheNew Yorker over the last ten years) of some of the most significant (and interesting/controversial) contemporary artists including Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Jasper Johns and Maurizio Cattelan. Notwithstanding the uncontrollable, inexplicable feelings of like/ dislike one has when viewing an artwork, the intellectual process underlying the artwork is often lost on a "naked" viewing. Although some have argued that this loss is irrelevant and what matters is the viewer's own, personal experience of the art, I myself do value and in fact attempt to acquire a deeper understanding of an artist's intellectual and creative processes. Biography is one way to gain such an insight because the way artists live is an integral part of who they are and how they create art. Tompkins' intimate portraits of the chosen artists are not only memorable and intriguing but also poignant and meaningful in the sense that each incident or fact recounted masterfully adds to one's understanding of the artist and his work - nothing is superficial or superfluous. An incredibly rich resource for anyone interested in contemporary art.