Coffee Table Dreams: The Best Art Books Ever

Treat someone (or yourself) to a beautiful coffee table book

On the look-out for the best art books of all time? You’ve come to the right place. From beautiful photography coffee-table books to first-edition post-impressionist works of (literary) art, we round up some of our favourites below. 

The Loveliest Art Books For Your Coffee Table

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Based Upon, The Evidence III book

Based Upon: The Evidence III

£25, basedupon.com

Art collective Based Upon has created incredible artworks all over the world, including a 16m sculpture for a project in Abu Dhabi and a piano made in collaboration with Steinway and Sons. The tribe is something of an enigma – but you can delve behind the scenes by investing in The Evidence III, a book which chronicles the creation of its wearable collection and breath artworks. 

Blackwells The Book of Symbols Taschen

The Book of Symbols

£25, blackwells.co.uk

Ever stumbled upon a work of art and wondered what the details represented? The Book of Symbols offers an encyclopaedic look at societies obsession with finding symbols in nature, the body, and the elements. Leaf through and you’ll find how different religions, cultures, regions across the world have seen the meaning of an apple, bone, wind, which will deepen your understanding of an artwork and the society that lay behind it.

Odd Apples

Odd Apples

£10, waterstones.com

William Mullan’s obsession with apples began when he saw his first Egremont Russet at a Waitrose grocery store outside of London. The photographer, who was fascinated by its gnarled, potato-like appearance, went on to document hundreds of rare apple varieties. Odd Apples is the culmination of Mullan’s photography project, showcasing photos that lovingly render each apple to highlight its ‘individual personality’. This is one for fans of art and fruit alike.

David Hockney My Yorkshire book cover

David Hockney: My Yorkshire: Conversations with Marco Livingstone

£225, hornseys.com

This book documents British artist David Hockney’s conversations with the art historian Marco Livingstone about his roots in Yorkshire. Profusely illustrated with reproductions of the artist’s work and photographs of his life, My Yorkshire is a love letter to the English county Hockney spent so much of his life living in.

Genji: The Prince and the Parodies

£35, waterstones.com

Inspired by Lady Murasaki’s Tale of Genji (which has been entertaining readers for over 1,000 years), The Prince and the Parodies compiles the responses of various artists to its resonating story. The book includes illustrations of courtly intrigues, love affairs and shifting alliances of the epic novel, as well as retellings from Japanese master printmakers such as Kunisada, Hiroshige, Suzuki Harunobu and Chobunsai Eishi. With insightful commentary from a leading Japanese print scholar, this book invites readers to explore the colourful world of The Tale of Genji and its visual afterlife.

Late Constable

£21.95, royalacademy.org.uk

Late Constable came as a companion to the Royal Academy’s exhibition of the same name which ran from the end of 2021 into early 2022. Exploring the work of legendary British painter John Constable, this book combines the artist’s work with texts by leading authorities on Constable to present a survey on his later life: the freedom of his late works, elections as a Royal Academician and legacy on the depiction of the English landscape.

Nigeria: Original Cover Art of Nigerian Music

£33.99, roughtrade.com

Presented in a large format book featuring hundreds of unique and stunning record sleeve designs from Nigeria, Nigeria: Original Cover Art of Nigerian Music spans from the country’s independence in 1960 through the second-half of the 20th century. With reflections on a time in which Nigerian artists and the Nigerian music industry thrived both at home and abroad, this book provides a visual narrative where culture flourishes, experimentation is praised and independence is central.

Nadine Ijewere book

Nadine Ijewere: Our Own Selves

£37.99, bookshop.org

This is the first book dedicated to Nadine Ijewere, the first black woman to shoot the cover of Vogue in the magazine’s 125-year global history. Her photography explores themes of identity and diversity, drawing on her roots in Nigeria and Jamaica, as well as on her own experiences as a young black woman in South East London. The book features over 160 works with dazzling colours and dreamlike backgrounds – from fashion shoots for Dior and Valentino to a series of Jamaicans across different generations. 

Image courtesy of the artist

Portrait of an Artist: Conversations with Trailblazing Creative Women

Portrait of an Artist: Conversations with Trailblazing Creative Women

£26, waterstones.com

Mexican artist Hugo Huerta Marin photographs and interviews almost 30 trailblazing women in a new art book, spanning different industries, nationalities and generations. He has spent seven years capturing his subjects in places they felt comfortable – homes, studios, theatres and galleries. This includes visual artists like Tracey Emin and Yoko Ono, musicians such as Annie Lennox and FKA Twigs, plus fashion designers and Hollywood stars. 

Image: Tracey Emin by Hugo Huerta Marin

Bright Stars book cover

Bright Stars: Great Artists Who Died Too Young

£16.99, waterstones.com

Maria Balshaw, director of the Tate, called Kate Bryan’s new book ‘a compelling reflection on the concept of legacy’. Within, the Bryan examines the lives of 30 great artists who died too young. Packed with biographical stories, from tragic ends to brilliant legacies, Bright Stars celebrates the talents of those we lost too early. Expect to read about legendary names like Caravaggio and Vincent van Gogh as well as unsung talents like Amrita Sher-Gil and Eva Hesse. A brilliant read for anyone with an interest in the arts.

Meadow Arts book, Pablo Bronstein, 2017

Meadow Arts: the first 20 years

£14.50, meadowarts.org

From forests to cathedrals, Meadow Arts has been bringing contemporary art to unexpected places since 2001. Over the years the organisation has worked with a number of world-leading artists, including Rachel Whiteread and Yinka Shonibare, with projects ranging from an exhibition in a wildflower meadow to an intervention on the world’s first iron bridge. All this is being celebrated in a beautiful new book, launched to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Meadow Arts.

Image: Pablo Bronstein, 2017

Tengo un Dragon Dentro del Corazon: The Photographs of Carlota Guerrero

Tengo un Dragon Dentro del Corazon: The Photographs of Carlota Guerrero

£39.99, waterstones.com

Barcelona-based photographer Carlota Guerrero shot to fame following her iconic portrait of Solange Knowles, which was the album cover for her 2016 album A Seat at the Table. Yet she’d been crafting her signature style for many years before then, with works often focusing on nude women in nature. Some of her best shots have been brought together in a new art book, Tengo un Dragon Dentro del Corazon, which translates as: ‘I have a dragon in my heart’.

Image: Solange Knowles, A Seat at the Table

Salvador Dail, The Impossible Collection

Salvador Dali: The Impossible Collection

€1050, assouline.com

‘There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad.’ From impressionism to cubism, paintings to stage design, Salvador Dali was never constrained to one style or medium – and, indeed, his eccentric persona was an art form in itself. His diverse body of work is being showcased in a new book, featuring 100 works put together by curator and art historian Paul Moorhouse.

Absolutely Augmented Reality

Absolutely Augmented Reality

From £28.29, abebooks.co.uk

This photobook from New York-based art duo Kuzma Vostrikov and Ajuan Song fuses humour with sleek surrealist photography, featuring over 100 works from the artistic series ‘Absolutely Augmented Reality’. The pair – who describe themselves as ‘photoextentialists’ – describe the book as ‘an introductory experiment in our investigation into metaphysics’, adding: ‘The book is more than just photography: it is aligned with a particular space and concentrated point in time in which it arose. In the language of modern art, it could be called “performance” but we would like to give a broader definition.’

Art: The Definitive Visual Guide

Art: The Definitive Visual Guide

£35, waterstones.com

With a stunningly vibrant cover and a foreword by Andrew Graham-Dixon, this art book both looks beautiful and is filled with beautiful content. Showcasing over 700 works art from the likes of Van Gogh and Picasso, this makes a great book for perusing with a cup of tea on a lazy Sunday.

David Yarrow

The Beauty of Life on Earth with David Yarrow

£139, davidyarrow.photography

A must-have for both travel and art enthusiasts, this stunning photo-book from fine-art photographer David Yarrow showcases 150 breath-taking images of some of the world’s most beautiful yet endangered species, as well as an array of awe-inspiring natural sights. Featuring excerpts from renowned American Quaterback Tom Brady and the iconic Cindy Crawford, along with photographs of celebrities such as Cara Delevigne, this is a compelling work which fans of the photographer won’t want to miss out on. 

New York

New York by New York

€250, assouline.com

New York by New York takes the reader through the most important periods of the great city and into all its boroughs, from Manhattan and Brooklyn to the Bronx and Queens to Staten Island with glimpses into its history and the development of its world-renown skyline.

100 Painters of Tomorrow

From £150.68, abebooks.co.uk

Good news for paint lovers, the medium is ‘alive and well’, so says Kurt Beers, director of Beers Contemporary. He has taken it upon himself to find the 100 greatest new talents. The artists featured in the book were chosen from an open-call of over 4,300 applicants, by a panel of some of the most prestigious figures in contemporary art today. One of the best art books, ever.

The Art of Mondo

The Art of Mondo

£36.19, wob.com

Film fans will appreciate this gorgeous hardcover collection of Mondo’s iconic poster designs, displayed with a brief history of the company and artists. From Hitchcock classics to Star Wars, there are some seriously iconic images between these covers.

Ibiza Bohemia

€105, assouline.com

Travel writer Maya Boyd and fashion stylist Renu Kashyap make the ultimate case for the eternal whim of the characters living on the gleaming Balearic island and their intimate, stylish quotidian. This love letter to the beauty and effortlessness of Ibiza is at the heart of an eye catching coffee table book.

Billy Name: The Silver Age

£39.07, blackwells.co.uk

There are few others that got a better, or closer look in to the mysterious goings-on of Warhol’s Factory. Lucky for us, Andy gave Billy a Pentax Honeywell 35mm camera, with which he documented all that he saw during his time living in a tiny closet in the studio. He was also responsible for the legendary ‘silverizing’ of the space, in which the Factory was adorned with aluminum. Lou Reed, the Velvet Underground, Edie Sedgwick and Bob Dylan can be spotted throughout his recordings.

Andy Warhol

The Impossible Collection of Warhol

£850, farfetch.com

This book is a work of art in its own right; hand-bound using traditional techniques and printed on art-quality paper, each page has the unique imprint of the artisan. No art book collection is complete without Warhol, whose explosive Pop Art and sharp commentary on advertising and celebrity culture are renowned the world over and deeply relevant still today. Warhol expert and former Andy Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner curated this limited edition addition to the Assouline Ultimate Collection, collecting the 100 quintessential works that best encapsulate the artist’s vast oeuvre.

The Deftness of Da Vinci

From £14.75, abebooks.co.uk

Da Vinci was a master of almost everything, but most significantly, he was a master draughtsman. This book beautifully reproduces 663 of his drawings, from anatomical studies to architectural plans, the majority of which are presented in full-page format, so they can be pored over in their every detail.

Dalí Les Diners de Gala

Dalí Les Diners de Gala

£45, blackwells.co.uk

A real party piece, this is a re-print of the surrealistic cult cookery book whipped up with the ingredients from Dalí and Gala’s legendary dinner parties. It includes 136 elaborate and extravagant recipes from the original 1973 book to satisfy your appetite for the surreal such as Lobster with black pearls, Bush of crayfish in Viking herbs, Toffee with pine cones and The Breast of Venus.

Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History

Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order) 

£9.99, smeikalbooks.co.uk

An outstanding and personal introduction to some of the most important female artists of all time. Enjoy entertaining narrative about each artist accompanied by reproductions of their most famous works and original portraits by Lisa Congdon.

Art Kane

£29.95, reelartpress.com

It is surprising, considering the breadth of Art Kane’s career, that this book offers the first comprehensive collection of his photography. Better late than never, and it doesn’t disappoint, with work spanning all genres of his eclectic oeuvre, from fashion to travel and of course, his nudes. Don’t miss his star-studded portraits of the Rolling Stones, The Who, Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan, among countless others.

Rothko: The Colour Field Paintings

Rothko: The Colour Field Paintings

£21.29, wob.com

This collection of Rothko’s profound abstract expressionism presents fifty large-scale artworks from the American master’s colour field period (1949–1970). The iconic images appear alongside essays by Rothko’s son, Christopher Rothko, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art curator of painting and sculpture Janet Bishop. The perfect present for a life-long fan or someone ready to discover Rothko’s art for the first time.

Zadok Ben David: Human Nature

Zadok Ben David: Human Nature

£45, circapress.com

This is the first comprehensive monograph of Zadok Ben-David’s work, spanning 20 years and including four major installations, plus outdoor works from one of the world’s most respected contemporary sculptors. With a foreword by Richard Cork and essays by Felicity Fenner, Yael Guilat, John McDonald and Fumio Nanjo. From ‘Evolution and Theory’ (1995), to the psychological installation ‘Blackfield’ (2007), with thousands of flowers, there’s plenty to fascinate fans in this beautiful book.

Turner’s Sketchbooks

£19.99, waterstones.com

If you aren’t already Turner-ed out after watching Mr. Turner and visiting the huge exhibition of his late works at the Tate Britain, this is a great introduction to the artist’s work. Compiled by Ian Warrell, one of the world’s leading experts on Turner, the book explores the themes and sketches that formed the foundations of his showstoppers.

Royal Academy of Dance

Royal Academy of Dance: Celebrating 100 Years

From £24.15, abebooks.co.uk

As an art form, dance is often overlooked – let this gorgeous book put things right. With over 150 beautiful archival images and covering everything from choreography to costumes, it traces how the RAD revolutionised the teaching of dance, bringing ballet to a new audience. It also sheds light on some of the most fascinating figures in the RAD’s history, including stories of dancers such as Rudolf Nureyev, Darcey Bussell and Margot Fonteyn.

The Short Story of Art Cover

The Short Story of Art by Susie Hodge

£14.99, laurenceking.com

Exploring 50 key artworks, this pocket guide is the ultimate beginner’s guide to art, explaining the key movements, themes and techniques. A must-have for any new art enthusiast or the perfect present for a loved one. 

Featured image: Nick Hillier, Unsplash