With auction records grabbing headlines and the invitation lists multiplying for increasingly glamorous and nomadic art-world happenings, it’s no wonder some people are attracted to art to diversify their social portfolio. Whatever brings you to it, art can be a gateway to incredible conversations and experiences, and even on a relative budget. In Confessions of a Poor Collector (1970), Eugene Schwartz advised collectors how best to begin: “You do not start by collecting a work of art. You start by collecting books on works of art.”
Schwartz insists that the key is not always to read art books, but to study their images. Kevin Salatino, director of the Huntington Museum of Art and one of my mentors, also suggests that a crucial way of learning about art is to “look, look, look!”
If you didn’t make it to Art Basel Miami Beach this year—or you fell prey to the “fake” and didn’t see any art while you were there—you can still browse the fair’s offerings on Art.sy. And if you want to have fun and be “serious” in the process, try focusing on your library—and definitely make time to see some actual art. Here are two new books (signed are best!) about L.A. artists that I’m adding to my collection this month.
James Welling, 16, 2008, inkjet print. 48 ¼ x 40 in.
James Welling: Monograph (Aperture)
On the occasion of James Welling’s tour de force retrospective, currently on view at the Hammer Museum, this publication presents nearly four decades of work by the beloved L.A. photographer—a strong influence among a generation of younger artists. Featuring essays by Mark Godfrey and Thomas Seelig and an insightful interview with Welling, it’s an essential book for anyone interested in understanding the limits to which photography has been pushed in contemporary art.
Raymond Pettibon (Rizzoli)
Clear off your coffee table and make room for this surefire keeper: the most in-depth look to date at the work of reluctant art-world superstar Raymond Pettibon. Known for capturing the countercultural spirit of the late seventies and eighties, Pettibon’s unmistakable drawings, texts, and designs range from Black Flag flyers to political posters to masterfully rendered and highly coveted paintings on paper that feature existential surfers gliding effortlessly across California waves.
Photos: Courtesy James Welling/Regen Projects; Courtesy of Bettina Korek