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Welcome to the Art subject guide

Jitterbugs (II) William H. Johnson, ca. 1941.This guide provides information on resources in the Fine Art and History of Art subject areas.

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Image: Jitterbugs (II), William H. Johnson, ca. 1941. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Douglas E. Younger

New books in Art

I Can Make You Feel Good

In his first published monograph, Tyler Mitchell, one of America's distinguished photographers, imagines what a Black utopia could look like. The book unifies and expands upon Mitchell's body of photography and film from his first US solo exhibition at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York.

Tomashi Jackson

Jackson's paintings synthesize connections shared by local residents of color around experiences of transportation, housing, agriculture and labor. The first monograph on Tomashi Jackson (born 1980), The Land Claim illustrates the Cambridge- and New York-based artist's unique work and research methodology that focuses on the historic and contemporary lived experiences of Indigenous, Black and Latinx families on the East End of Long Island, and how the role of women, the meaning of labor and the sacredness of land link these communities.

By Alison Knowles: a Retrospective (1960-2022)

American artist Alison Knowles is best known as a co-founder of Fluxus, the avant-garde group founded in 1962. Knowles's groundbreaking experiments--from painting and printmaking to sculpture and installation, sound works, poetry, and artist's books--have influenced contemporary art and artists for more than fifty years. The first comprehensive exhibition of her significant but underexamined body of work, by Alison Knowles: A Retrospective (1960-2022) will bring greater attention to all facets of the artist's oeuvre.


Gender is a polyphonic portrait of the representation of gender in art. In this book, celebrated playwright and artist Travis Alabanza offers a revelatory new perspective on the ways that art and gender have interacted through the ages, taking us into the drama that always follows gender, and the drama that always follows art. Through a number of recognizable works from the national collection of art, we discover who is really putting on a show, and what they are trying to tell us.

Wangechi Mutu

Between Afrofuturism, fantasy and postcolonialism: the most comprehensive monograph to date on the fantastical worlds of Wangechi Mutu. Wangechi Mutu takes viewers on journeys of material, psychological and sociopolitical transformation; this volume explores her most recent groundbreaking work. Over the past two decades, Mutu has created chimerical constellations of powerful female characters, hybrid beings and fantastical landscapes.


Class is a subject that has shaped the art world in Britain for as long as it has existed. At a moment when galleries and museums are seen to be upholding outdated and damaging class structures and systems, how is it possible to trace and tackle the legacy and impact of class in art throughout history, and today?

Dawoud Bey and Carrie Mae Weems: in Dialogue

A visual and conceptual conversation between two leading US photo-artists famed for their mutual explorations of race, class and power. Dawoud Bey and Carrie Mae Weems met in New York in the late 1970s, and over the next 45 years these close friends and colleagues have each produced unique and influential bodies of work around shared interests and concerns.


Photography has been one of the key languages of modernity and with the advent of the digital revolution, it has also established itself as the most used medium in everyday private and public communication. Photography is also one of the arts that have marked the 19th and 20th centuries, and during the early years of the 21st century it has taken on an increasingly central role in the field of global contemporary creativity within all socio-political and cultural systems.

Really Free: the Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe

An unprecedented look at Nellie Mae Rowe's art as a radical act of self-expression and liberation in the post-civil rights-era South. During the last 15 years of her life, Nellie Mae Rowe lived on Paces Ferry Road, a major thoroughfare in Vinings, Georgia, and welcomed visitors to her "Playhouse," which she decorated with found-object installations, handmade dolls, chewing-gum sculptures and hundreds of drawings.

Betye Saar: Serious Moonlight

Rarely seen installation works that exemplify this pioneering artist's critical focus on Black identity and Black feminism. Showcasing a lesser-known aspect of Saar's art, Betye Saar: Serious Moonlight provides new insights into her explorations of ritual, spirituality and cosmologies, as well as themes of the African diaspora.

Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour - Frederick Douglass

A visual and literary meditation juxtaposing Isaac Julien's artworks with archival images of Frederick Douglass and essays that consider his enduring legacy. This sumptuously illustrated artist's book and reader documents Lessons of the Hour (2019), the ten-screen film installation and series of related photographic artworks by the internationally acclaimed artist Isaac Julien CBE RA (born 1960), which honor the public and private life of one the most important figures in US history: Frederick Douglass.

Assembling a Black Counter Culture

In Assembling a Black Counter Culture, writer and musician DeForrest Brown, Jr, provides a history and critical analysis of techno and adjacent electronic music such as house and electro, showing how the genre has been shaped over time by a Black American musical sensibility.

Architectures of Weaving

Architectures of Weaving reimagines the art of weaving as the combined result of fiber techniques and cultural practice. Addressing today’s urgent energetic and environmental challenges, the book explores new approaches for resilient and adaptable material systems by examining the boundaries between softness and rigidity, material and shape, and functionality and structure.

Kubra Khademi

The artist Kubra Khademi (b. 1989) lives in Paris and focuses in her work on her life as a woman and a person with direct experience as a refugee. This makes it both political and highly topical. Multi-faceted themes pervade her art, including her function as mouthpiece and as an element in the fight for the fundamental rights of women, as well as artistic work in exile and in a Muslim society.


Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have forced many of us, including artists, to view ideas of closeness in a new light. Kinship, published on the occasion of the National Portrait Gallery's tenth "Portraiture Now" exhibition, features the work of eight leading contemporary artists who explore familial relationships through photography, painting, sculpture, and performance.

This Is Tomorrow

Michael Bird takes a fresh look at the 'long twentieth century', from the closing years of Queen Victoria's reign to the turn of the millennium, through the lens of the artists who lived and worked in this ever-changing Britain.

African art now

African Art Now is an expansive overview featuring some of the most interesting and innovative artists working today. Far-reaching in its scope, this book celebrates the diversity and dynamism of the contemporary African art scene across the continent today.

Women's Work

A celebration of art traditionally devalued as too domestic or feminine to be taken seriously and the innovative, brilliant artists reclaiming the idea of women's work'.

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei is not only one of the most important contemporary artists; he is also an untiring activist and critic of authoritarian systems. "Humanity" includes key works from all phases of the artist's career and examines in detail the aspect of humanity and artistic responsibility in the oeuvre of Ai Weiwei.

The Cambridge Companion to Krautrock

This Companion is the first academic introduction to the 1960s/70s 'Krautrock' movement of German experimental music that has long attracted the attention of the music press and fans in Britain and abroad. It offers a structured approach to this exceptionally heterogeneous and decentralized movement, combining overviews with detailed analysis and close readings.

The Hidden Language of Symbols

A stimulating narrative and reference resource that guides the reader through the most significant symbols from worldwide art history. Why do we reach for the red rose on Valentine's day? Where did the owl gain its reputation for wisdom? Why should you never trust a fox? In this visual tour through art history, Matthew Wilson pieces together a global visual language enshrined in art: the language of symbols.

Carolee Schneemann

Carolee Schneemann (1939-2019) was one of the most experimental artists of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. This book traces the feminist icon's prolific six-decade output, spanning her remarkably diverse, transgressive, and interdisciplinary expression. Contributions from leading and emerging scholars, writers, and artists shed new light on Schneemann's work, which addressed everything from sexual expression, taboo, and the objectification of women, to the trauma of war and the precarity of the body. 

The Cute

The Cute tracks the astonishing impact of a single aesthetic category on post-war and contemporary art, and on the vast range of cultural practices and discourses on which artists draw. From robots and cat videos to ice cream socials, The Cute explores the ramifications of an aesthetic "of" or "about" minorness--or what is perceived to be diminutive, subordinate, and above all, unthreatening--on the shifting forms and contents of art today. 

What is Black art?

What is Black art? This vital anthology gives voice to a generation of artists of African, Asian and Caribbean heritage who worked within and against British art institutions in the 1980s, including Sonia Boyce, Lubaina Himid, Eddie Chambers and Rasheed Araeen. It brings together artists' statements, interviews, exhibition catalogue essays and reviews, most of which have been unavailable for many years and resonate profoundly today. 

Revolution Is Love: a Year of Black Trans Liberation

Revolution Is Love: A Year of Black Trans Liberation is the powerful and celebratory visual record of a contemporary activist movement in New York City, and a moving testament to the enduring power of photography in activism, advocacy, and community. Through photographs, interviews, and text, Revolution Is Love celebrates the power of shared joy and struggle in trans community and liberation. 

The Double

From ancient mythology to contemporary cinema, the motif of the double--which repeats, duplicates, mirrors, inverts, splits, and reenacts--has captured our imaginations, both attracting and repelling us. The Double examines this essential concept through the lens of art, from modernism to contemporary practice--from the paired paintings of Henri Matisse and Arshile Gorky, to the double line works of Piet Mondrian and Marlow Moss, to Eva Hesse's One More Than One, Lorna Simpson's Two Necklines, Roni Horn's Pair Objects, and Rashid Johnson's The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club. 

The story of art without men

A paean to many artists as well as various art forms often overlooked or dismissed, this exciting revisionist history of art turns the limelight on women artists' creativity and the way it has shaped and enriched our world. How many women artists do you know? Who makes art history? Did women even work as artists before the twentieth century? And what is the Baroque anyway?

Artists and the People

Exploring the work of established and emerging artists in Indonesia's vibrant art world, this book examines why so many artists in the world's largest archipelagic nation choose to work directly with people in their art practices. While the social dimension of Indonesian art makes it distinctive in the globalized world of contemporary art, Elly Kent is the first to explore this engagement in Indonesian terms. 

Sonia Boyce

The first major publication to explore the work of Sonia Boyce, one of Britain's most exciting contemporary artists, including her newest and most ambitious work to date. The British artist Sonia Boyce (b. 1962) is celebrated for depicting intimate social encounters that explore interpersonal dynamics in drawing, photography, video, and installation, using images and sounds captured during the participatory art events she initiates.

In the black fantastic

In the Black Fantastic assembles art and imagery from across the African diaspora that embraces ideas of the mythic and the speculative. It brings to life the forces that shape Afrofuturism - the cultural movement that conjures otherworldly visions out of the everyday of Black experience - and beyond, looking at how speculative fictions in Black art and culture are boldly reimagining perspectives on race, gender, identity and the body in the 21st century.

Black Matrilineage, Photography, and Representation

Black Matrilineage, Photography, and Representation questions how the Black female body, specifically the Black maternal body, navigates interlocking structures that place a false narrative on her body and that of her maternal ancestors. Drawing on a wide range of scholarly inquiry and contemporary art, this book addresses these misconceptions and fills in the gaps that exist in the photographic representation of Black motherhood, mothering, and mutual care within Black communities. 

A little devil in America: in praise of Black performance

At the March on Washington in 1963, Josephine Baker reflected on her life and legacy. She had spent decades as one of the world's most successful entertainers but told the crowd, "I was a devil in other countries, and I was a little devil in America, too". Inspired by these words, celebrated poet and music critic Hanif Abdurraqib has written a profound meditation on Black performance in the modern age, in which culture, history and his own lived experience collide.

Selfie aesthetics

Selfie Aesthetics

Nicole Erin Morse examines how trans feminine artists use selfies and self-representational art to explore transition, selfhood, and relationality.

Black artists shaping the world

Black Artists Shaping the World

Black Artists Shaping the World celebrates the diversity of work being produced today by Black artists from around the globe, introducing twenty-six contemporary artists from Africa and of the African diaspora.


Contemporary art can seem chaotic: it may be made of toilet paper, candies you can eat, or meat that is thrown out after each exhibition. Some works fill a room with obsessively fabricated objects, while others purport to include only concepts, thoughts, or language. Immaterial argues that, despite these unruly appearances, making rules is a key part of what many contemporary artists do when they make their works.

As we rise

As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic

As We Rise presents an exciting compilation of photographs by Black artists from African diasporic culture. 

Aesthetics, Philosophy and Martin Creed

What is the future of conceptualism? What expressions can it take in the 21st century? Is there a new role for aesthetic experience in art and, if so, what is that role exactly? Aesthetics, Philosophy and Martin Creed uses one of this generation's most important and influential artists to address themes crucial to contemporary aesthetics. 

Art and climate change

Art and Climate Change

A timely introduction to the fields of environmental art, art and ecology, art and climate change, art and activism, and art in the Anthropocene.

Walid Raad: Cotton under My Feet

A semi-fictional performative account of the lives and archives of a legendary Spanish art collection How does a private art collection become public? Who was Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza? These questions are at the heart of Cotton under My Feet, a new project by New York-based Lebanese artist Walid Raad (born 1967) conceived for the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, coinciding with the centennial of its original founder. 

Caribbean art

Caribbean Art

An updated and expanded edition of this classic, illustrated survey of Caribbean art, featuring the work of over 100 artists from the period of colonialism to the present day.

Making it modern

Making It Modern

This collection of essays brings together some of the pioneering art historian Linda Nochlin's most important writings on modernism and modernity from across her six-decade career.

Brief history of Black British art

Brief History of Black British Art

Taking as its starting point the London-based Caribbean Artists Movement, this concise introduction showcases the work of over sixty Black British artists from the 1960s until the present.

A Companion to Modern and Contemporary Latin American and Latina/o Art

In-depth scholarship on the central artists, movements, and themes of Latin American art, from the Mexican revolution to the present. Over 30 never-before-published essays on the crucial historical and theoretical issues that have framed our understanding of art in Latin America. This book has a uniquely inclusive focus that includes both Spanish-speaking Caribbean and contemporary Latinx art in the United States. 


Prime, Art's Next Generation

This illustrated survey brings together more than 100 of the most innovative and interesting contemporary artists born since 1980 working across all media and spanning the globe.

Posthuman and nonhuman

Posthuman and Nonhuman Entanglements in Contemporary Art and the Body

This book makes a crucial intervention into the field of contemporary artistic studies, exploring how art can conceptualize material boundaries of entangled beings/doings.

The Black index

The Black Index

The artists featured in The Black Index--Dennis Delgado, Alicia Henry, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Titus Kaphar, Whitfield Lovell, and Lava Thomas--build upon the tradition of Black self-representation as an antidote to colonialist images.

A New Way of Seeing

A New Way of Seeing

An exciting new critical voice explores what it is that makes great art great through an illuminating analysis of the world's artistic masterpieces.

Sport and the European avant-garde

Sport and the European avant-garde (1900-1945)

What has been the significance of sport for the European avant-garde in the first half of the 20th century? From an international and interdisciplinary perspective we show the extent to which avant-garde art and culture was shaped by the dynamic encounter with modern sports.

Decolonizing Science in Latin American Art

Decolonizing Science in Latin American Art

This book assembles a new corpus of art-science projects by Latin American artists, ranging from big-budget collaborations with NASA and MIT to homegrown experiments in artists' kitchens. 

Art and archive

Art + Archive

'Archive' has been one of the most persistent buzzwords in the international artworld since the turn of the twenty-first century. Art + Archive examines the meaning and function of the notion of the archive in art writing and practices from 1995 to 2015. 

Black Artists in America

Black Artists in America

Exploring how artists at midcentury addressed the social issues of their day--from Jacob Lawrence to Elizabeth Catlett, Rose Piper to Charles White This timely book surveys the varied ways in which Black American artists responded to the political, social, and economic climate of the United States from the time of the Great Depression through the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision. 

Key resources for Art

Books and e-books

You can access a wide variety of print and electronic books to support your research. Find your module reading list to see what key readings you can access electronically or search Explore to find more books and e-books. 

Key databases

We subscribe to a number of subject focused and interdisciplinary databases that will be relevant when researching the History of Art and Fine Art practice. Use the databases to find a range of material including journal articles, films for streaming and more.

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