Modern Art and Mediterranean History

Modern Art and Mediterranean History

Robert Tanitch reviews two books

100 WORKS OF ART THAT WILL DEFINE OUR AGE by Kelly Grovier (Thames & Hudson £24.98). But which of these metaphors of our time, do you think will really last?

The contemporary art works, from 1989 to 2010, include many which are very familiar: Amish Kapoor’s highly polished and disorientating Cloud Gate; Tracey Emin’s unmade stained bed; Anthony Gormely’s monumental spiritual impact with Angel of the North; Subdodh Gupta’s mushrooming stainless steel; Damien Hirst’s  opulent diamond encrusted skull, a gaping, gaudy laugh at Death; David Hockney’s enormous (fifty canvases) Bigger Trees; Jeff Koon’s topiary, a huge West Highland terrier and not as innocent as he might seem.

There are some powerful political statements, too: A I Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds; Maurizio Cattelan’s Love with its huge index finger; the unrelenting vulgar Jake and Dinos Chapman’s Hell; Shirin Neshat’s Iranian woman, an ambiguous image which can be read in so many ways; and Rachel Whiteread’s The Nameless Library , a memorial to the Holocaust.

Kelly Grovier’s book is terrific value and every double page is provocative in image and text

A HISTORY OF THE MEDITERRANEAN edited by David Abulafia (Thames & Hudson £16-95) is another bargain: a record of the centre of western civilisation from pre-history to the present day. The text by nine historians is primarily for historians and those who are interested in the Egyptians, Minoans, Mycenaeans, Greeks, Etruscans, Romans and the great religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

But at the same time the book will whet the appetite for travel. The magnificent illustrations, a wonderful collection of landscapes, townscapes, old maps, mosaics, art work, murals, will have a special appeal to all those who go to the Mediterranean not just to lap up the sun but also to lap up the culture.

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