Six of the best new art and photography books
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Books news every morning.
A photographic chronicle of snowy London
The impressionists had a name for the glow bestowed on a scene by snowfall: effet de neige, “snow effect”. It’s a phenomenon captured in London in the Snow, a book documenting flurries, falls and drifts in the city throughout the 20th century. In one image, the neon signage of Piccadilly Circus is tempered by a snowfall, while in another children on their way to school in Peckham smile out from underneath a blur of drifting flakes.
The images, curated from several archives, capture a simultaneous stillness and frenzy. One photograph from 1962 shows a milkman skiing down a snow-carpeted road to deliver his glass bottles, while others capture the chaos of snowball fights, and cyclists navigating icy streets. But there’s also a peacefulness to the capital: a snowman sitting quietly on an empty bench. A snow-dusted bubble-car smiling at passersby with a newly drawn face. “An enchanting muffled stillness,” as art and photography writer Lucy Davies writes in her introduction. BAYA SIMONS
London in the Snow is published by Hoxton Mini Press at £16.95
Celebrating modernist painter Milton Avery’s masterful use of colour
Milton Avery’s luminous canvases have led some to call him “the American Matisse”. Born in late-19th-century New York State to a working-class family, he left school at 16 to work in a factory, and for several years did night shifts so that he could paint in the day. Though he did receive some recognition, and was a significant influence on artists such as Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, he also fell between movements (too abstract for the realists, too representational for the abstract expressionists), and never got the same dues as his peers – until now.
This month an exhibition, opening in Texas and travelling to London’s Royal Academy next year, is set to bring the master colourist’s work to a wider audience. Comprising around 70 of Avery’s sherbet-toned paintings from the 1930s to the 1960s – often depicting holiday scenes in Maine and Cape Cod – the show and accompanying book will explore his contribution to American modernism. “There have been several others in our generation who have celebrated the world around them,” Rothko said of the painter, who died in 1965, “but none with that inevitability where the poetry penetrated every pore of the canvas to the very last tip of the brush.” BS
Milton Avery: American Colourist is at Fort Worth, Texas, until 30 January 2022, and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, from 15 July to 16 October, 2022. The accompanying book is published by the Royal Academy of Arts at £25
A visual journey through the politics and fictions of American architecture
A new book from American photographer and writer Jeffrey Ladd, A Field Measure Survey of American Architecture, takes readers on a gripping “road trip” through the buildings of the 19th- and 20th-century United States. It presents a hypnotic sequence of photos of houses from the Historic American Buildings Survey’s archive, weaving along the Mason-Dixon line to create a documentary-style architectural portrait.
While the exteriors, with their clapboard façades, crumbling neoclassical pillars, smashed windows or overgrown ivy evoke a narrative of design left to decay, interior shots reveal a more intimate social commentary: stories of class, race and sinister happenings – from engraved doorknobs, portraits of horses and Chinese characters to a punchbag in a kitchen and a saw in a cluttered living room. The book forms a question: what can images of houses say about a country? “Among the vast beauty the pictures hold,” says Ladd, now based in Cologne, “there is fragility and often signs of devastating violence that seem to mirror the current climate of my former country.” KYRA HO
A Field Measure Survey of American Architecture by Jeffrey Ladd is published by Mack at £35
A sumptuous study of the world’s rarer fruits
From the book of Genesis to Snow White, few fruits have held so much fascination in art and literature as the apple. A new publication from New York-based photographer William Mullan adds to this history. Mullan, who works as a marketing manager for an artisanal chocolatier by day, first became interested in apples as a schoolchild in rural England when he came across the Egremont Russet.
Entranced by its gnarled, potato-like appearance and rich, nutty flavour, he embarked on a journey to discover and document other rare varieties. Odd Apples chronicles some 90 rare types, each set against vividly coloured backdrops and with its origins and flavour noted. From the rosy-fleshed Californian Pink Pearl to the speckled Black Oxford and those rough-skinned russets, Mullan’s compendium celebrates the beauty and idiosyncrasies of each cultivar in technicolour glory. SARA SEMIC
Odd Apples by William Mullan is published by Hatje Cantz at $18
Claudia Schiffer takes us back to the ’90s
Discovered on a dancefloor in Düsseldorf in 1987, Claudia Schiffer went on to lead some of the most defining fashion campaigns of the 1990s. She was well-placed, then, to curate the new exhibition and book, Captivate! Fashion Photography from the ’90s, on show at Düsseldorf’s Kunstpalast Museum. From Helmut Newton’s provocative portraits to Corinne Day’s more candid images, the exhibition showcases familiar pictures alongside unseen material from Schiffer’s personal archive, as well as a Q&A between the model and Felix Krämer.
“The ’90s was about energy, reality and personality, and I wanted to encapsulate that big shift,” says Schiffer, who became one of the era’s great supermodels, best known for her work with Karl Lagerfeld, Ellen von Unwerth and Herb Ritts. “There’s a sense of ‘why not?’,” Schiffer adds of the relevance of the decade today, “and a desire to live life better, to experiment, to collaborate. As we learn to socialise and live IRL once again, the ’90s values resonate.” NINI BARBAKADZE
Captivate! Fashion Photography from the ’90s, curated by Claudia Schiffer, is published by Prestel at £49.99
A dazzling new light on an underrepresented South African subculture
An article about noise complaints first got photographer Alice Mann interested in the subculture of the “drummies”; neighbours were griping about the young drum majorettes rehearsing at a school in Cape Town. This woman-only sport – a combination of dance, flag-waving and baton-twirling in formation – was first introduced in the city’s street parades in the 1970s, but its popularity waned in recent years. It inspired the South African-born, London-based Mann to travel around schools in her home country in order to document this little-known scene.
Now this series – which won the prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize in 2018 – is brought together in a new title, accompanied by an exhibition at Kunsthal Rotterdam. Dressed in their distinctive brightly coloured, sequin-trimmed uniforms, the girls gaze into Mann’s lens with a confidence and poise that speaks to their pride in being a “drummie” – a title that is seen as a privilege and an achievement, particularly within the marginalised communities which many of them come from. “In a world where so many sporting opportunities are still focused on men,” writes Mann, “I want these images to function as testament to the commitment and determination of these young female athletes.” SS
Alice Mann: Drummies is published by GOST Books at £40. The exhibition Drummies is showing at Kunsthal Rotterdam until 23 January 2022
Sophie Calle surveils the enigmatic lives of anonymous hotel guests
In 1981, French writer and conceptual artist Sophie Calle took a job as a temporary chambermaid in a Venetian hotel. As she cleaned each room, she photographed the guests’ belongings using a camera stashed inside her mop bucket, and meticulously recorded her observations in a journal (“six suits for the man, and 12 silk blouses for the woman”). The resulting series is now being published for the first time as a standalone book, The Hotel.
Calle’s observations explore the everyday debris of hotel guests – a silk nightgown spread across two single beds, a pair of Venetian masks, neatly made or disarrayed beds, false teeth lurking inside a suitcase. There are also unsettling and strange scenes: a lobster claw wrapped in the folds of a sheet; a briefcase containing a hot-water bottle; a hammer next to a rubbish bag. Together they ask what our habits and possessions might reveal about us and whether our curiosity about the private lives of others is normal or shameful. Like many of Calle’s projects, the work of art is in her act of intrusion; the resulting photographs are merely the eerily beautiful evidence. BS
The Hotel by Sophie Calle is published by Siglio at $39.95