100 books like Duty Free Art

By Hito Steyerl,

Here are 100 books that Duty Free Art fans have personally recommended if you like Duty Free Art. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade

David Joselit Author Of Heritage and Debt: Art in Globalization

From my list on art and globalization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been professionally involved with contemporary art since the 1980s, when I was a curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. In the forty years since I've seen an enormous shift in the orientation of American curators and scholars from Western art to a global perspective. After earning my PhD at Harvard, and writing several books on contemporary art, I wanted to tackle the challenge of a truly comparative contemporary art history. To do so, I've depended on the burgeoning scholarship from a new more diverse generation of art historians, as well as on many decades of travel and research. My book Heritage and Debt is an attempt to synthesize that knowledge. 

David's book list on art and globalization

David Joselit Why did David love this book?

This engaging book looks at globalization and art from a perspective well beyond the conventional art world. Wong analyzes the work of artists in the Chinese "urban village" of Dafen where some five million paintings are produced a year–copies of Western masterpieces. Rather than viewing this industry condescendingly, Wong takes Dafen as a laboratory for understanding what qualities make an artist, and how creativity exists even in contexts of reproduction and replication. 

By Winnie Won Yin Wong,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Van Gogh on Demand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the Guangdong province in southeastern China lies Dafen, a village that houses thousands of workers who paint Van Goghs, Da Vincis, Warhols, and other Western masterpieces, producing an astonishing five million paintings a year. To write about life and work in Dafen, Winnie Wong infiltrated this world, investigating the claims of conceptual artists who made projects there; working as a dealer; apprenticing as a painter; surveying merchants in Europe, Asia, and America; establishing relationships with local leaders; and organizing a conceptual art show for the Shanghai World Expo. The result is Van Gogh on Demand, a fascinating book about…


Book cover of Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria

David Joselit Author Of Heritage and Debt: Art in Globalization

From my list on art and globalization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been professionally involved with contemporary art since the 1980s, when I was a curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. In the forty years since I've seen an enormous shift in the orientation of American curators and scholars from Western art to a global perspective. After earning my PhD at Harvard, and writing several books on contemporary art, I wanted to tackle the challenge of a truly comparative contemporary art history. To do so, I've depended on the burgeoning scholarship from a new more diverse generation of art historians, as well as on many decades of travel and research. My book Heritage and Debt is an attempt to synthesize that knowledge. 

David's book list on art and globalization

David Joselit Why did David love this book?

This is the best account I know of the double bind that artists subjected to settler forms of colonialism have had to endure. Taking Nigerian modern art as his case study, this eminent Africanist art historian shows how, on the one hand, colonial officials attempted to abolish the indigenous artistic heritage as "savage," or "primitive," while simultaneously blocking African artists from a European art education. To become modern required a negotiation between these dual limitations and ended up producing something very different from Western modernism.

By Chika Okeke-Agulu,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Postcolonial Modernism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written by one of the foremost scholars of African art and featuring 129 color images, Postcolonial Modernism chronicles the emergence of artistic modernism in Nigeria in the heady years surrounding political independence in 1960, before the outbreak of civil war in 1967. Chika Okeke-Agulu traces the artistic, intellectual, and critical networks in several Nigerian cities. Zaria is particularly important, because it was there, at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, that a group of students formed the Art Society and inaugurated postcolonial modernism in Nigeria. As Okeke-Agulu explains, their works show both a deep connection with local artistic…


Book cover of Making Art Global: The Third Havana Biennial 1989, Exhibition Histories Vol. 2

David Joselit Author Of Heritage and Debt: Art in Globalization

From my list on art and globalization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been professionally involved with contemporary art since the 1980s, when I was a curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. In the forty years since I've seen an enormous shift in the orientation of American curators and scholars from Western art to a global perspective. After earning my PhD at Harvard, and writing several books on contemporary art, I wanted to tackle the challenge of a truly comparative contemporary art history. To do so, I've depended on the burgeoning scholarship from a new more diverse generation of art historians, as well as on many decades of travel and research. My book Heritage and Debt is an attempt to synthesize that knowledge. 

David's book list on art and globalization

David Joselit Why did David love this book?

This book is part of a series that extensively documents watershed modern and contemporary exhibitions. The Havana Biennial of 1989 was especially important because it developed what has been called South-South connections in the exhibition of contemporary artin other words, connections between different parts of the Global South or non-West that are not routed through European or North American art capitals. This was possible because, during the Cold War, Cuba maintained extensive cultural networks throughout the so-called Third World

By Rachel Weiss, Luis Camnitzer, Coco Fusco , Geeta Kapur , Charles Esche

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Making Art Global as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The second installment in Afterall's Exhibition Histories series, Making Art Global, Part 1 focuses on the third Havana Biennial, which took place in 1989. In the core essay, Rachel Weiss examines the ways in which this exhibition extended the global territory of contemporary art and redefined the biennial model. Gerardo Mosquera, a key member of the curatorial team, contributes a reflection on the project, and its constituent exhibitions and events are documented photographically. The book also includes a paper delivered by Geeta Kapur at the Biennial conference and republishes reviews of the Biennial by Coco Fusco and Luis Camnitzer. It…


Book cover of Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method

David Joselit Author Of Heritage and Debt: Art in Globalization

From my list on art and globalization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been professionally involved with contemporary art since the 1980s, when I was a curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. In the forty years since I've seen an enormous shift in the orientation of American curators and scholars from Western art to a global perspective. After earning my PhD at Harvard, and writing several books on contemporary art, I wanted to tackle the challenge of a truly comparative contemporary art history. To do so, I've depended on the burgeoning scholarship from a new more diverse generation of art historians, as well as on many decades of travel and research. My book Heritage and Debt is an attempt to synthesize that knowledge. 

David's book list on art and globalization

David Joselit Why did David love this book?

Not only is this book an authoritative account of the Tansaekhwa movement in Koreaa group of abstract painters who gained great acclaim in recent yearsbut it establishes a model of how regional art worlds intersect with global networks. Kee accomplishes this by charting the hierarchical relation between Japan and Korea within Southeast Asia, whose differences were largely erased when "Asian" art was exhibited in Europe. In other words, regional rivalries and specificities are often subsumed into broader regional identities when artworks begin to circulate globally.

By Joan Kee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Contemporary Korean Art as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Starting in the mid-1960s, a group of Korean artists began to push paint, soak canvas, drag pencils, rip paper, and otherwise manipulate the materials of painting in ways that prompted critics to describe their actions as "methods" rather than artworks. A crucial artistic movement of twentieth-century Korea, Tansaekhwa (monochromatic painting) also became one of its most famous and successful. Promoted in Seoul, Tokyo, and Paris, Tansaekhwa grew to be the international face of contemporary Korean art and a cornerstone of contemporary Asian art.


In this full-color, richly illustrated account-the first of its kind in English-Joan Kee provides a fresh interpretation…


Book cover of Distant Early Warning: Marshall McLuhan and the Transformation of the Avant-Garde

William J. Buxton Author Of Harold Innis on Peter Pond: Biography, Cultural Memory, and the Continental Fur Trade

From my list on By or about the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan (.

Why am I passionate about this?

William J. Buxton is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies and Senior Fellow, Centre for Sensory Studies, at Concordia University Montreal, Qc, Canada. He is also professeur associé au Département d’information et de communication de l’Université Laval, Québec City, Québec, Canada. He has edited and co-edited five books related to the life and works of the Canadian political economist and media theorist, Harold Adams Innis.

William's book list on By or about the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan (

William J. Buxton Why did William love this book?

This book explores McLuhan’s relationship with avant-garde art. While McLuhan’s engagement with artistic endeavours, has received some attention, Kitnick examines in detail not only how McLuhan’s work on art developed over an extended period, but how his views on artistic practice came to inform the work of others. He builds on McLuhan’s contention that art was not primarily a means of self-expression, but rather the basis for cultural exploration and environmental change. Drawing inspiration from figures such as James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, and Wyndham Lewis. McLuhan, according to Kitnick, saw members of the avant-garde as artists who work within conventional structures in order to disrupt them, thereby throwing them into relief. 

By Alex Kitnick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Distant Early Warning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) is best known as a media theorist-many consider him the founder of media studies-but he was also an important theorist of art. Though a near-household name for decades due to magazine interviews and TV specials, McLuhan remains an underappreciated yet fascinating figure in art history. His connections with the art of his own time were largely unexplored, until now. In Distant Early Warning, art historian Alex Kitnick delves into these rich connections and argues both that McLuhan was influenced by art and artists and, more surprisingly, that McLuhan's work directly influenced the art and artists of his…


Book cover of Cosmopolitan Canvases: The Globalization of Markets for Contemporary Art

John Zarobell Author Of Art and the Global Economy

From my list on art and globalization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of International Studies and a former museum curator. This combination provides me with a unique perspective not only on the inner workings of the art world, but the way that those practices map on to broader social, political, and economic transformations that occur as a result of globalization. This leads me, for example, to an assessment of how free-trade zones affect the art market. In past research, I have focused on colonialism and French art in the nineteenth century, so I am attuned to power imbalances between the center and the periphery and I am fascinated to see how these are shifting in the present.

John's book list on art and globalization

John Zarobell Why did John love this book?

This book provides a primer on the global art market from scholars around the world.

The issues addressed include economic integration of multiple circuits/regional markets, the rise of markets in Asia, online marketplaces, and the importance of galleries and collectives to propel artists to success. The biggest advantage to this work is that it is the first book to consider global art markets from divergent perspectives.

While there remains a real center to the art world analyzed in this volume, you can start to see how new regions and countries are charging forward, transforming the domain of contemporary art in the twenty-first century by making it far more diverse and global.

By Olav Velthuis (editor), Stefano Baia Curioni (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cosmopolitan Canvases as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since the late 1990s, contemporary art markets have emerged rapidly outside of Europe and the United States. China is r s1the world's second largest art market. In counties as diverse as Brazil, Turkey and India, modern and contemporary art has been recognized as a source of status, or a potential investment tool among the new middle classes. At art auctions in the US, London and Hong Kong, new buyers from emerging economies have driven up prices to record levels.
The result of these changes has been an increase in complexity, interconnectedness, stratification and differentiation of contemporary art markets. Our understanding…


Book cover of An Art of Our Own: The Spiritual in Twentieth Century Art

Charlene Spretnak Author Of The Spiritual Dynamic in Modern Art: Art History Reconsidered, 1800 to the Present

From my list on the spiritual dimension of modern art.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having written several books on cultural history, I was puzzled in the late 1990s by the insistence of most American curators, art historians, and gallerists that there could not possibly be any spiritual content in modern art because the modern project (beginning, they assert, with the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874) was all about the rejection of tradition, religion, etc. This overarching narrative has dominated the professional art world since World War II. I knew it was false because I was aware that many prominent modern artists had spiritual interests, which were expressed in their art. So began a 17-year-long research quest focused on what the artists themselves had said.

Charlene's book list on the spiritual dimension of modern art

Charlene Spretnak Why did Charlene love this book?

Lipsey, an art historian, was inspired by Coomaraswamy’s perception of spiritual interests in the work of early modernist artists who exhibited at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery in New York in the 1920s. Lipsey had a hunch that many more prominent 20th-century artists most likely had a similar engagement with the spiritual. In seeking to present “the hidden side” of modern art, he discusses some 20 renowned artists and relevant movements that attracted many of them in various decades, such as Theosophy, Orphism, and Cubism. The title is taken from a quotation by the sculptor Constantin Brancusi, who favored a nature-based spiritual sensibility that was distinct from church-based religious art: “It is time we had an art of our own.” Lipsey is an insightful and graceful guide in this area.

By Roger Lipsey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Art of Our Own as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Lipsey, Roger


Book cover of Postmodern Heretics: The Catholic Imagination in Contemporary Art

Charlene Spretnak Author Of The Spiritual Dynamic in Modern Art: Art History Reconsidered, 1800 to the Present

From my list on the spiritual dimension of modern art.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having written several books on cultural history, I was puzzled in the late 1990s by the insistence of most American curators, art historians, and gallerists that there could not possibly be any spiritual content in modern art because the modern project (beginning, they assert, with the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874) was all about the rejection of tradition, religion, etc. This overarching narrative has dominated the professional art world since World War II. I knew it was false because I was aware that many prominent modern artists had spiritual interests, which were expressed in their art. So began a 17-year-long research quest focused on what the artists themselves had said.

Charlene's book list on the spiritual dimension of modern art

Charlene Spretnak Why did Charlene love this book?

I noticed when I was interviewing prominent contemporary artists for my book that many of them had a Catholic childhood. Eleanor Heartney noticed the same thing when she began to research the art and artists who became a focus in the culture wars of the 1990s. This is a dimension of the art history of the modern era that has not been told. Heartney explores the influence of an “Incarnational consciousness” in works that transgress boundaries. Beyond that, she frames artistic manifestations of the “Catholic imagination,” tracing the influence of “the beauty of religious art, music, and literature and the slippage in sacramental rituals between the carnal and the spiritual.” Her final chapter is on “Knowledge Through the Body: The Female Perspective.”

By Eleanor Heartney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Postmodern Heretics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEWLY EXPANDED AND REDESIGNED 2ND EDITION. This redesigned, re-edited, illustrated new edition of the classic study "Postmodern Heretics: The Catholic Imagination in Contemporary Art" explores the Catholic roots of controversial artists and the impact of Catholicism on the 1990s Culture Wars. In the 1990s the United States was embroiled in a deeply divisive Culture War. "Postmodern Heretics" offers a radically original interpretation of the extraordinary cultural and political battles that took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Examining this period from the perspective of religion, Eleanor Heartney discovers that the most controversial artists of the time came, almost…


Book cover of Cosmos: From Romanticism to the Avant-Garde

Brian D. Cohen Author Of Bestiary: A Book of Animal Poems & Prints

From my list on illustrated stories for grown-ups.

Why am I passionate about this?

I make prints and visual books. I founded Bridge Press, now in Kennebunk, Maine, 1989 to publish limited edition artist's books and etchings. The name of the press underscores the collaborative nature of book making. Visual books offered possibilities for the continuity, connection, and unfolding of images—each image is complete yet linked to every other through the structure of the book. Books seemed an ideal vehicle to assemble and connect my prints, to order and unfold a sequence of images, with defined and recurrent shapes, motifs, and composition, and to create a setting in which each image is complete yet linked to every other through the structure of the binding or enclosure.

Brian's book list on illustrated stories for grown-ups

Brian D. Cohen Why did Brian love this book?

This book brilliantly revives the concept of cosmography, the visual depiction of the universe, from the beginnings of Romanticism to images from the Hubble telescope. By intermingling images from art and science, the book underscores the powerful visual parallels between the two disciplines, their discoveries equally strange, wondrous, and insightful. 

By Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Centre De Cultura Contemporania De Barcelona, Jean Clair (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cosmos as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Galileo to Yves Klein the cosmos has been the inspiration for generations of artists, architects and designers. Their multifacetted cosmic visions are the subject of this original volume.


Book cover of The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985

Charlene Spretnak Author Of The Spiritual Dynamic in Modern Art: Art History Reconsidered, 1800 to the Present

From my list on the spiritual dimension of modern art.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having written several books on cultural history, I was puzzled in the late 1990s by the insistence of most American curators, art historians, and gallerists that there could not possibly be any spiritual content in modern art because the modern project (beginning, they assert, with the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874) was all about the rejection of tradition, religion, etc. This overarching narrative has dominated the professional art world since World War II. I knew it was false because I was aware that many prominent modern artists had spiritual interests, which were expressed in their art. So began a 17-year-long research quest focused on what the artists themselves had said.

Charlene's book list on the spiritual dimension of modern art

Charlene Spretnak Why did Charlene love this book?

This is the grand exhibition catalogue that burst through the professional art world’s wall of denial that modern, especially abstract, art would have any spiritual content. The extensive exhibition this book accompanied opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1986 and then travelled to The Hague, where it influenced young European art historians (though was largely ignored in the United States). This catalogue contains excellent articles by 17 noted “rebellious” art historians, including an overview by the head curator of the exhibition, Maurice Tuchman. The many color plates are stunning. This book is indispensable for anyone seeking to learn about the subject.

By Maurice Tuchman (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Spiritual in Art as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The seventeen essays in this provocative book provide a radical rethinking of abstraction, from the Symbolism that prefigured abstract art through the current manifestations of spiritual content in American and European painting.


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