We believe that one of the best ways to engage with the art world – its histories, artists, and ecosystems –  is to keep hold of a running booklist, and to reserve an appetite for art reading alongside visits to art exhibitions and events. Our headquarters in Singapore is stocked with a library of international art books and catalogues that often foster engaging conversations with collaborators, clients, or those curious to enter the art world.

Metis co-director, Cliff Hartono, shares a list of his favourite art reads, from a few classics on ways of viewing art and exploring its value, to books on the intimate lives of artists and architects, and the burgeoning rise of art dealers. With Lunar New Year around the corner for those who celebrate, it may be a perfect time for leisurely reading between family reunions. Happy reading!

What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye by Will Gompertz

What are you looking at? is an accessible introduction to Modern art that offers a great overview of various art movements, artworks, and artists over the last two centuries. For anyone new to the art world, we highly recommend this book as the one to start with.

Ways of Seeing by John Berger

Ways of Seeing is an eye-opening read on the act of looking at images, and how they act upon the viewer. Even 50 years after its publish date in 1972, it remains a classic on ways of viewing and critiquing art. The book accompanies a BBC documentary series of the same name that can be found on YouTube, featuring and directed by Berger himself.

Lives of the Artists, Lives of the Architects by Hans Ulrich Obrist

Hans Ulrich Obrist is amongst leading curators in the art world. Known for his conversation projects that he began in his youth, this book documents conversations with artists and architects into the intimate lives of their creative processes and projects. 

Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art by Michael Shnayerson

So much media attention is given to the auction houses and their record sales that most of the public does not realise that it is the galleries who are the backbone of the art market. Boom details the meteoric rise of mega dealers and blue-chip artists as well as how their often volatile relationships have created the contemporary art market of today. 

The Value of Art by Michael Findlay

Michael Findlay is one of the most respected dealers in the art world, and this book explores the value of art from different perspectives – the commercial, the social and most importantly – the personal. 

Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton

In seven day-in-the-life chapters, journalist and sociologist Sarah Thornton chronicles stories from within key parts of the arts ecosystem, including an auction, an artist’s studio, and an art school “crit.” Illustrating what lies beneath the often mystifying spectacle of the contemporary art industry, Thornton offers grounding perspectives on what truly shapes and moves the art world. 

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