“Brilliantly illuminating . . . This latter-day Vasari puts his dry wit and keen eye to work in fashioning enduring portraits of ten contemporary-art stars, tracing the fruits of creative genius back to their strange roots.”—Vogue
For more than four decades Calvin Tomkins’s incisive profiles in The New Yorker have given readers the most satisfying reports on contemporary art and artists available in any language. In Lives of the Artists ten major artists are captured in Tomkins’s cool and ironic style to record the new directions art is taking during these days of limitless freedom. With the decline of formal technique and rigorous training, art has become, among other things, an approach to living. As Tomkins says, “the lives of contemporary artists are today so integral to what they make that the two cannot be considered in isolation.”
Among the artists profiled are Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, the reigning heirs of deliberately outrageous art; Matthew Barney of the pregenital obsessions; Cindy Sherman, who manages multiple transformations as she disappears into her own work; and Julian Schnabel, who has forged a second career as an award-winning film director. Whatever the choice, the making of art remains among the most demanding jobs on earth.
"This is art history live."—Massimiliano Gioni, Director of Special Exhibitions, The New Museum of Contemporary Art
"To match Tomkins in art of the brief life for keenness of wit and sharpness of observation, one must go back to Lytton Strachey."—Louis Auchincloss
"Tomkins’s access is astonishing . . . A deft biographer, he gives a lesson in his craft: how to balance present with past, the specific with the general, personality with context, features with flaws—all in the space of 20 pages. Tomkins is a ruthless observer. . . . He is also a generous critic of the cult of artistic personality. . . . Books [from] the New Yorker have become a small industry, but not all are as intimate as this one."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Portraits of Ten Artists Whose Work and Lifestyles Embody the Future of Contemporary Art