Six Stunning New Art Books to Escape Into

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Teju Cole
Image from FernwehTeju Cole; Courtesy the artist and MACK

Six coffee table books to take you far away from home – without ever having to leave it

With more time spent indoors means more time to rove the landscapes of our bookshelves. For those who’ve already scoured their own collections, here are six new tomes to help breathe a little fantasy into their solitude. Whether you’re in the mood for some hazy wanderlust, inspiration for your own increasingly familiar interiors, or a synapse-firing deep-dive into pictorial history, there’s a menu to choose from (and you don’t have to queue for a delivery slot).

1. Fernweh by Teju Cole

Following in the footsteps of meditative documentarians like Luigi Ghirri, artist-writer Teju Cole explores the idea of fernweh – a German word for a longing to be elsewhere. For Cole, this specifically refers to a desire to be in Switzerland, with its picturesque vistas and glacial, coolly lit beauty. But for readers, Fernweh encapsulates the curiosity with which we regard faraway places but also serves as a gentle reminder to look for the exquisite compositions in our somewhat more local vicinities.

Fernweh by Teju Cole, published by MACK, is available now.

2. A History of Pictures: David Hockney & Martin Gayford

If you didn’t make it to David Hockney’s sadly short-lived show, Drawing From Life at the National Portrait Gallery before it was prematurely closed, take a deep dive into his truly remarkable brain with this newly condensed print of A History of Pictures. Riffing with friend and expert art historian Martin Gayford, Hockney draws upon the deep tissues that connect Disney and Hiroshige, Velázquez and Eisenstein, illuminating the power of the image with a mind-bendingly original light. It will transform your relationship to pictures.

A History of Pictures: David Hockney & Martin Gayford, published by Thames and Hudson, is available now.

3. Growing Fruit and Vegetables in Pots

If the virtual queues on my go-to seed stockists, and my Instagram feed, are anything to go by there has been a major spike in amateur gardening. But of course – it’s a therapeutic, creative task that gives one a sense of control over a tiny universe, particularly if that involves growing one’s own food in these dark days of supermarket hoarders. Phaidon’s new book couldn’t come at a better time: Growing Fruit and Vegetables in Pots offers inspiration and tips for even the most experience- and space-poor gardener. Whether you have a cluster of balcony pots or just a window box, Aaron Bertelsen of the impossibly beautiful English garden at Great Dixter walks you through how to make the most of your lockdown time and your budding green fingers.

Growing Fruit and Vegetables in Pots, published by Phaidon, is available now.

4. Francois Halard: A Visual Diary

If you’re feeling somewhat sick of your immediate surroundings, leaf through Francois Halard: A Visual Diary, where the renowned interiors photographer has accumulated a luxurious compendium of the homes and studios of fashion and art’s great luminaries. From the radically contrasting homes of Rick Owens and Dries Van Noten (including the latter’s majestic gardens) to the treasure-filled studios of Giorgio Morandi and Louise Bourgeois, this weighty survey offers both inspiration for, and escapism from, your own home.

Francois Halard: A Visual Diary, published by Rizzoli, is available now.

5. Picture Summer on Kodak Film by Jason Fulford

Travel will likely look a little different on the other side of this pandemic – as it surely should – but close quarantine quarters will have many of us dreaming of far away places nonetheless. Photographer Jason Fulford’s new tome for MACK casts a very dreamy haze across his travels through Canada, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Nepal, Thailand, USA and Vietnam. Together, this collection of sumptuous snapshots of sun-strewn details from indeterminate spots around the globe paints a day-dreamy patchwork that feels perfectly akin to that creeping wanderlust.

Picture Summer on Kodak Film by Jason Fulford, published by MACK, is available now.

6. Robert Mapplethorpe 

A specially commissioned new poem by Patti Smith opens this most comprehensive survey of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s luscious works, edited and designed by Mark Holborn and Dimitri Levas. Spanning his nudes, self-portraits, portraits and floral still-lifes, this cloth-bound tome will see you leave this global pandemic with an encyclopedic knowledge of one of photography’s most tender visions.

Robert Mapplethorpe, published by Phaidon, is out now.