Art books round-up: Cosy conversations with Jeff Koons, and how to be green

 

What are artists, critics and curators talking about these days?

This autumn, we can eavesdrop on two very different styles of conversation, in Jeff Koons: Conversations with Norman Rosenthal (Thames & Hudson, £19.95) and Rendezvous with Art by Martin Gayford and Philippe de Montebello (Thames & Hudson, £19.95). The first is an excitable affair packed to the gills with glossy pictures of Koons' works; the second, an extended and often interrupted conversation between an art critic and the former director of the Met in New York, is relatively sober and cerebral. Rosenthal and Koons talk through Koons' career and preoccupations. Koons comes over as a boyishly madcap evangelical for art, and how it can ground us in our lives. This is a book of Koons' near-hero worship – you lose count of the times Rosenthal uses the adjectives wonderful and beautiful.

Gayford and de Montebello are forever on the move, standing in front of masterpieces in Spain, Italy, London, talking in depth about the nature of seeing, the qualities that cause us to define a work as great or not, the nature and history of museums. It's a fine book, but it lacks the spice of contention. These men are too polite to each other. Rosenthal, on the other hand, adores what Koons has achieved, and is forever talking him up.

Ossian Ward has set himself a very difficult task in Ways of Looking: How to Experience Contemporary Art (Laurence King, £9.95). How do you get to grips with the multi-tentacled monster that the art of our day has become? There is nothing complicated about the answer – forget about all the art-historical baggage, then come to it new, accept it for what it is, and give it time. He then takes us on a tour of many things, wild and wacky, under such headings as "Art as event, performance and confrontation". The difficulty of this book is that we often don't really know how much Ward himself believes in a lot of this stuff.

In spite of the fact that the man himself died bankrupt, there has never been a lack of belief in the importance of Rembrandt, and, in anticipation of the autumn's upcoming National Gallery show devoted to Dutch master's late works, Penguin have re-published a paperback edition of Simon Schama's magnificent critical biography, Rembrandt's Eyes (Penguin, £25). In spite of Schama's maddening fits of verbosity, he can zoom in on a masterpiece – in fact, almost any of those many masterpieces – with an extraordinary acuity.

Art books are often hopelessly unbalanced – too much description of pictures that we cannot see. Michel Pastoureau gets the balance just about right in Green: The History of a Color (Princeton, £24.95). This ceaselessly fascinating and erudite book considers the history of the colour green in relation to European civilisation – religion, art, social change – from the Greeks on, the relationship between what we see and the word's that we use. Did Homer see green? No, apparently not. The only fault is the book's ridiculous cover. The photograph of Jane Fonda, sprawled, smoking in a so-sultry way, makes it look like a book about 1960s fashion.

Sir Joshua Reynolds too often favoured not so much green as sludgy browns – occasionally mixed with bitumen – because he wanted his works to look like the 18th-century equivalents of old master paintings. Mark Hallett's Reynolds: Portraiture in Action (Yale, £50), is the fullest, best and most readable account of Reynolds' development as a portrait artist in decades, and the book is expensive because its many illustrations keep pace with almost everything that Hallett describes in his well-chosen words.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living