Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Best Art You've Never Seen by Julian Spalding

In The Best Art You've Never Seen: 101 Hidden Treasures from Around the World, Julian Spalding, a former museum director, takes readers on a trip around the world and highlights beautiful works of arts that is either rarely seen by the public or is underappreciated by the art world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's very well presented and contains fascinating information about the art, the artists, history, geography and much more. The book does a great job in explaining the pieces and the history either of the area or the piece itself. It's very easy to read and simply written with no pretence that can be sometimes associated with the art world.

The art is divided into many sections outlining why the piece is hidden. The various reasons include: chance, place, choice, hate, convention, art, conceptual art, collecting, conservation, and time. Some of the reasons were understandable; some were surprising. All of it was interesting.

For each piece, there's an accompanying article. The content varies, but it might explain the piece itself, the artist, how it was made or the history of the piece/location. Some of the articles touch on many subjects. Also, included are things like a large photo, the medium, date and location.

I found it extremely interesting that many of the artists were unknown, as in no one knows who created this work of art. It's sad that a name didn't survive along with the piece. There were also a few familiar names and pieces in the book. Most notable names: Audubon, Rockwell and da Vinci. Both Audubon and Rockwell were underappreciated, while da Vinci made the cut because the Mona Lisa has been hidden by so many layers of old varnish, not to mention that now it's behind a barrier and a glass screen. It's impossible to see the painting as da Vinci intended.

Favourite quotes:
If a work of art doesn't speak to you, there's a strong chance that it actually has nothing to say. (from the Introduction page vi)
The table of contents not only has the section headings (and page numbers), but also a list of the art objects within each section. The index appears to be fairly functional. The works of art that are described in the book are in bold, making them stand out. I found everything I was looking for. Having said that, there is one omission, which I mention below.

The "How to find them" section near the back of the book offers further directions to either the location for the piece of art itself or the website where it's best viewed. This information could have easily been added to the page specifically designated for that piece of art. No need for a separate section. The index appears to overlook this whole section, so perhaps it was added as an afterthought. For instance, when I look up Chauvet Cave, the index says it's on page 3. However, the cave is also mentioned on page 254 in this "How to find them" section.

Highly recommended for art lovers and history buffs.

For more information about this book, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

The Best Art You've Never Seen by Julian Spalding, Rough Guides, ©2010. ISBN 9781848362710(Soft cover), 276p.


  1. I love that quote. Great post, I enjoy art books as well.

  2. Thanks for stopping by! This book was so good because it was so accessible and taught me so much I didn't know before. I hope lots of people pick it up.

    Thanks again.


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