5 Art Books That Will Immediately Upgrade Your Coffee Table

BY Ayesha Shaikh / Sep 27 2018 / 19:06 PM

These tomes from Central Asia to the Middle East are just as beautiful to read as they are to admire

5 Art Books That Will Immediately Upgrade Your Coffee Table
Bakhodir Jalal


A visual souvenir that charts the artistic practice of Los Angeles-based Iraqi artist Hayv Kahraman, this book accompanies an eponymous exhibition featuring new works at California’s Pomona College Museum of Art, running from September until December. Featuring artworks and performance texts, it gives a fuller sense of the 37-year-old artist and her life as an Iraqi emigrant as she journeyed through Sweden and the US, sometimes feeling like she’s “flickering in and out of multiple worlds,” as she writes. Her figurative paintings depicting a singular woman with pale skin and black hair, and wall works, are thoughtful meditations on gender identity and being colonised. Her oeuvre ranges from Persian miniatures and Japanese illustrations to Italian Renaissance paintings, with her most recent works incorporating a weaving technique drawn from Iraqi hand-woven fans called mahaffa. It’s fascinating to see such riveting images born of the chaos and sense of displacement that consume Kahraman. Out this September, this book with its propulsive style is a definite page-turner.

Talking ArtEdited by Rebecca McGrew. Pomona College Museum of Art and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. Pomona.edu/museum/; Photography by Ian Byers-Gamber, courtesy of Content Object


The catalogue will be published alongside the first major US retrospective of Iranian-American sculptor Siah Armajani at the Walker Arts Centre in Minneapolis come September, celebrating the life and works of the artistic polymath over the past six decades. The book features little-known pieces and a series of works never shown before in the US, where Armajani is credited with designing the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge (1988) in Minneapolis and the Olympic Torch for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, among others. It traces his works from his earliest in Tehran to his studio practice in Minneapolis, the latter of which feeds into historic conversations in the Middle East and North America about art’s intrinsic relationship to the public sphere. The book includes a series of essays, Armajani’s own and those by noted figures such as Iranian artist Nazgol Ansarinia, which shine the spotlight on his groundbreaking works, from gazebos to gardens. It brings to the fore a range of references imbued in his works, from Persian calligraphy to Abstract Expressionism, vernacular architecture of rural America to Russian Constructivism. At 448 pages, this book is just the right size to commemorate a genius.

Talking ArtEdited by Clare Davies and Victoria Sung. Published by Walker Art Centre. Walkerart.org


This is the first retrospective monograph that illustrates the breadth of Uzbek master painter and graphic artist Bakhodir Jalal’s four-decade career. Awash in images of his rich, colourful paintings that span abstraction, portraiture, still life and figurative art, the hardback surveys the contours of Uzbek culture and Jalal’s contribution to the post-Soviet narrative. This striking tome, sheathed in a dark blue tone, features Jalal’s 1997 painting In Memory of Naqshbandi on the cover, depicting the vibrant colours, fluid lines and symbols that are characteristic of his abstract works. “This artwork shows Jalal’s transformation from being a muralist and graphic artist to an abstractionist, when he finally found his personal touch,” says Natalya Andakulova, founder of Dubai’s Andakulova Gallery, who is behind the book’s launch. Uzbek art historian Nigora Akhmedova provides commentary throughout the book, describing Jalal’s art as a “continuous dialogue between thinkers and artists from both the East and the West.” Also featured is an in-depth interview with Jalal in his Tashkent studio, and a chapter devoted to his drawings and works on paper. Launching on 31 October at Andakulova Gallery in Dubai.

Talking ArtEdited by Rosa Maria Falvo. Published by Skira. Skira.net


The hefty tome is rich with archival context and fiction, weaved into a multistrand narrative by visual artist and filmmaker Lamia Joreige to reflect on the state of her native Lebanon. Her revelatory films, such as Night and Days (2007) and the Objects of War series (2000-04), focus on the relationship between individual stories and collective memory, referencing Lebanon’s harrowing experience with wars and their aftermath. The hardback includes essays by French professor Patricia Falguières and Lebanese actor Rabih Mroué, and conversations with artists such as the French-Algerian Kader Attia, rounded off with images of Joreige’s preparatory notes, prints, installations, video stills and sequences. “In Joreige’s work, film is an exploration of spaces. It shows an almost limitless faith in the freedom of movement conferred by art,” Falguières says in her essay. In her 2003 conversation with Lebanese-American artist Etel Adnan, Joreige takes the reader through a gripping conversation about life, war, love and art, all alluding to the latter’s telling works that explore, among other things, traces of time and how it affects us.

Talking ArtEdited by Nour Salamé and Lamia Joreige. Published by Kaph. Kaphbooks.com


To what extent has the digital boom transformed the way we relate to images? How have artists acclimatised to new forms of information dissemination? Writer and curator Omar Kholeif, raises these poignant questions in his book that’s an exquisite meditation on digital cultures and how they have changed life and art in the 21st century. The cover, showing viewers clicking photographs of the Mona Lisa, is akin to the layout of Instagram Stories, with the book’s title appearing in one of the social media app’s font options. Kholeif’s writing style is as clear as his critical eye, and he tactfully investigates the impact of present-day contemporary visual culture, even contemplating the status of art after the Internet in one chapter. Part memoir, part critical-analysis, the book includes a well-curated selection of artworks and television show stills, as Kholeif casts light on how art has become a public commodity. The book, he says, asks “fundamental questions about whether the world we’re starting to ‘see’ is one of liberation or entrapment.” One to keep near at hand as a guide to navigating the digital debris that surrounds us.

Talking ArtEdited by Michael Barron. Published by Sternberg Press. Sternberg-press.com

From the Autumn 2018 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia Art