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Salon to Biennial: Exhibitions that Made Art History (Volume 1)

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Book Review Salon to Biennial Exhibitions that Made Art History Volume 1 by Bruce Altshuler

"Salon to Biennial" is definitely not a small book.

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The Bottom Line

If you've ever wished you could've been at some of the famous art exhibitions that get mentioned when reading about the life and times of famous painters, this book will help fill that desire. Through photos of the exhibition spaces and by reprinting contemporary reviews etc, you're able to immerse yourself in the times of each exhibition.

If you're working with a group of other painters to establish yourselves and exhibit your work, you'll get insight into how now-famous artists/gallery-owners set out exhibiting (and the horrible things critics had to say).

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Pros

  • A sourcebook of documents from and photos of 24 famous art exhibitions in Europe and the USA.
  • Gives access to rare visual material and primary sources (not just snippets).
  • Photos are mostly at a reasonable size. Also easy to see which caption belongs to which photo.
  • Lovely typography and design, with red half-pages at the beginning of each exhibition.

Cons

  • It's a huge and heavy book to be read at a table or propped up on your lap.
  • Unavoidably the earlier exhibitions have fewer photos than the later ones.

Description

  • Published by Phaidon, 2008.
  • Large format, cloth-bound hardcover, with narrow jacket. Size: 11 3/8 x 9 7/8 in (290 x 250 mm). ISBN 978071484405.
  • 410 pages, 350 black-and-white and 150 color illustrations.
  • Introductory essay and chapter introductions by Bruce Altshuler, director of Program in Museum Studies, New York University.
  • Volume 1 covers 1863 to 1959. A second volume is promised.

Guide Review - Salon to Biennial: Exhibitions that Made Art History (Volume 1)

When you read about famous paintings, there are various influential exhibitions you hear about time and again. But rarely do you find any information about them other than the names of a few artists whose paintings were exhibited. This book fills that gap in no uncertain way. From the Salon des Refuses and the first independent exhibition of the Impressionists in Paris to the "Art of This Century" and "New American Painting" exhibition in New York, to the Nazi Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937, this book showcases 24 famous art exhibitions.

It's not a book of lengthy essays analyzing the exhibitions and their impact on modern art, but a sourcebook providing photos of the exhibition spaces, the paintings on the walls, the catalogs, some of the paintings exhibited. Along with documentation from the exhibition, such as floorplans, announcements, and reviews, plus a list of everyone who exhibited (not just the Big Names) and how many people attended the exhibition. There is a short introduction to each exhibition by Bruce Altshuler. Until time travel is invented, it's as good as it's going to get.

If you're a painter who loves to learn about the life and times of the artists who inspire you, if you're a painter who works in a gallery or museum, I think it's a book you'll find fascinating and informative. I've been mesmerized and delighted.

The New York Times called it "a marvel of information, organization and design [that] combines engaging analysis with myriad details to create in-depth portraits of exhibitions that are known, but not well." Art In America published a detailed review, saying: "As a reference tool, Salon to Biennial is beautifully conceived and designed." It won the 2009 Banister Fletcher Award for the best new book on art or architecture, from the London-based Authors' Club.

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