Fashion writer Simon Doonan is a judge on the NBC reality series Making It and the author of several books, including the memoir Beautiful People and a new pocket-size biography of artist Keith Haring. Below, Doonan recommends six favorite art books.
Andy Warhol’s philosophy by Andy Warhol (1975).
Warhol had thoughts that went way beyond all of that stuff about being famous for 15 minutes. He’s an eccentric guy worthy of the name, the Chauncey Gardiner of the art world. Examples: “I never fall apart, because I never fall apart together” and my favorite: “If not everyone is a beauty, then no one is. “
Portrait of the artist as a young girl by Grayson Perry (2006).
Grayson Perry – potter, painter, transvestite and public intellectual – is a beloved British folk hero. As this dark and fascinating autobio reveals, Grayson honestly came through his worship. He’s unassuming, insightful, hilarious, and just a good guy (and an occasional girl via his colorful alter ego, Claire).
Carnival strippers by Susan Meiselas (1976).
Broken nails, shattered dreams and stretch marks: these blunt and poignant photographs of traveling burlesque queens, and the accompanying text, are both depressing and uplifting. Even in the leaking tent of a traveling strip show, there is hope and humanity. Warning: The brilliance and originality of this book have made it a collector’s item. The copies are exchanged for $ 500.
Victorian fairy painting (1997).
So there I was, exiting the historic “Sensation” exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in the late 90s, when I stumbled upon the adjacent exhibit, “Victorian Fairy Painting”. Suddenly Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and the gang didn’t seem so demented anymore. The trippy and meticulous work of Joseph Noel Paton, Richard Dadd, Charles Doyle and others provides a terrifying window into the twisted Victorian psyche.
Our true intention is all for your pleasure (2003).
In the 1960s, spending time at various places in Butlin’s, a chain of British seaside resorts, introduced me to the joys of kitsch. I am eternally grateful to photographer Martin Parr, who had the vision to unearth the great postcard photographer John Hinde and immortalize his work in this magnificent larger format.
The fantastic art of Boris Vallejo (1978).
The fantastic paintings of Vallejo scream “biker bar”. His world of scaly monsters, muscular barbarians and bikini clad viragos is outrageous and fabulous and cannot be ignored. What makes Vallejo such a big winner? His kinky skills with oil painting are also from another world than his subject.
This article first appeared in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.