Serralves 2009: A Colecção (Vol. I)

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Review: A catalogue-like book made by the Serralves Museum in 2009, when they made their first major exhibition fully focused on the artworks they have in their collection. Besides photographs and documents, this book also features essays on Serralves’ history and the logic behind the collection. Very informative for those who are interested in knowing a bit more about the museum.

O Espectador Emancipado by Jacques Rancière

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Review: Earlier this year I went to a conference in Lisbon in which Jacques Rancière and Hans Belting discussed various problematics regarding the image. Despite having unfortunately chosen a seat next to a gentleman who kept falling asleep and loudly snoring, I enjoyed the talk, and was intrigued enough to delve into Jacques Rancière’s work (I was already familiar with Hans Belting’s).

The author has some thought-provoking ideas, and he writes in such a clear, logical way that I ended up liking this book a lot, even though I didn’t quite agree with all his points. The book comprises five essays (the results of various talks given all over the world), all of which are highly intelligent, well-developed, and far too long and detailed for me to discuss here, so I’ll just list them briefly.

The first of them, The Emancipated Spectator, is about the problematic of the spectator in the art of theatre, which was interesting to me since theatre is probably the art form I’m least versed in. The author raises some very good points about whether the spectator is passive or active, and if that should be addressed or changed by the actors. Next came The Misadventures of Critical Thinking, which explores the tradition of criticizing art and whether that tradition (or its denial) is relevant nowadays. The Paradoxes of Political Art was one of the most interesting to me, since it delved deep into the contradictions inherent to political, and politicized, art. The last two, The Intolerable Image and The Thinking Image, were closer to the lecture I listened to and focused mainly on images and visual arts.

This is a book well-worth reading, and I also recommend searching for the responses to these ideas by other authors, some of which can be found online.

How to Get a Job in a Museum or Art Gallery by Allison Baverstock

Rating: ***** (5 out of 5)

Review: A thorough and sobering look at the business of museums and galleries and what it is really like working in this field. The art world sometimes feels like a confusing place, and it’s hard to plan a career because nobody seems to have followed the same route to where they are, erroneously leading one to think that everything depends on luck. So it’s refreshing to read a practical study, with interviews and case studies from people in the field.

The only negative point is that it’s very UK centric, but I guess that’s to be expected. All in all, a very useful read, highly recommended if you’re starting out.

Exhibition Design by Philip Hughes

Rating: *** (3 out of 5)

Review: This book aims to be a thorough guide to the principles of exhibition designing, from trade fairs to museums and galleries.

While it touches upon many interesting themes, I felt that it was lacking in several areas – the information is a bit disorganized and for the most part it doesn’t go into detail about the things that are being explained. A lot of the schematics, while visually impressive, lacked explanations and context, and most of the times the labels were so small they were unreadable. But the biggest problem I had with the book is that it makes no apparent separation between trade / commercial exhibitions and art exhibitions. Say what you will, I’m not so cynical as to think that what you’re hoping to reach with an art exhibition in a museum is the same as from a trade fair exhibition where you sell products.

Still, this was fairly useful in giving an introduction to aspects of design I didn’t know a lot about.

Dustcovers: The Collected Sandman Covers 1989-1996 by Dave McKean

Rating: ***** (5 out of 5)

Review: A book about the wonderful work of Dave McKean for the Sandman comics. There really isn’t much else to say – if you love Dave McKean’s artwork you will love this book. Each cover has a story, and all the little details will have you stare at the images for a long time. It’s interesting to see how his work evolved over the years, and the commentary from both the artist and Neil Gaiman (who also wrote a short story for the book) is funny and insightful.

Definitely worth it if you’re a Sandman fan. If you’re not, I’m sure you’ll be interested in checking it out after you read this book.

The Polaroid Book by Barbara Hitchcock

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Review: Regardless of bad choices in business practice, Polaroid and its cameras remain one of the best things that happened to Photography. Recently, with news of the company shutting down and new enterprises taking over the responsibility to perpetuate the film manufacture, there’s been a revival of interest in the polaroid medium, specially for artists and photographers.

This book is gorgeous and of wonderful quality. The essays are interesting, if a little short and superficial. There’s no shortage of images, and I felt like the book would have benefited from a tighter selection, as well as less literal pairings. However, there are some true gems throughout, and this is worth it for those who take interest in Polaroids.

Cautionary Tales: Critical Curating by Steven Rand

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Review: I came across this book in my college’s library while doing research for an essay on the changing roles and concept of the curator. It was certainly interesting to be exposed to such different perspectives on curating. There were a lot of opinions I disagreed with strongly, and a few positive and thought-provoking points being made. The field of art curating is still a relatively new one to be studied, and in the sense that everyone is still trying to make sense of it, , this is a valuable book that is sure to raise questions.

Recommended for both students and professionals.