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Books published by Little Brown Mushroom (image from littlebrownmushroom.wordpress.com)

Despite the 2010 New York Art Book Fair getting quite a fair amount of press attention, photographer and fair participant Alec Soth feels that it wasn’t exactly the right kind. His criticism lies not with the fair itself nor with its PR, rather, his opinion that critics don’t often go out of their way to review art books in detail. A post on his nascent publishing outfit, Little Brown Mushroom’s, blog has the details.

In a post entitled, “An Open Letter to the New York Times Book Review,” Alec complains that the publication never takes time with books that are more visual than textual, art books the most rarely encountered among other examples. He writes,

Where are the art book reviews? They simply don’t exist… In short, the only true artist’s books being mentioned are coffee table books by New Yorker illustrators.

It’s true. In an ailing environment even for exhibition coverage, art book coverage suffers even more. But as Alec points out, this is an area that we should be focusing on rather than ignoring, the cutting edge of creative book making that points the way forward past iPads and Kindles to the future of printed matter.

Here at Hyperallergic, we’re trying to kickstart coverage of art books and books about art with our Wednesday Book Reviews, but it’s a tough gig to do alone. Alec has reviewed and recommended countless photo books on his, and LBM’s, blogs. Who else is covering art books with acumen? Do we need a new breed of critics prepared to take on art books as a separate genre?

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

2 replies on “Alec Soth Says Art Books Don’t Get Reviewed”

  1. When you write “art books,” do you mean artist’s books in the sense of limited edition pieces made (sometimes by hand) by an artist? Or exhibition catalog-style books? Or monographs, catalogues raisonnes, or other heavily illustrated scholarly/critical books? The kinds of books published by Phaidon or Taschen? The artier graphic novels?

    I ask because “art books” is a pretty broad category. As a reader, I am interested in reviews of all of the above (and probably some variations I missed)?

  2. I guess by “art books” I mean to refer to ‘artist books’, books made by artists as art projects, books-as-art, rather than books about art in the sense of monographs or catalogue raisonnes. It’s an interesting distinction, maybe that’s worth another post.

    Graphic novels I think aren’t artist books, but artist books can take on the language of graphic novels.

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