Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Lives of the Artists: Portraits of Ten Artists Whose Work and Lifestyles Embody the Future of Contemporary Art” as Want to Read:
Lives of the Artists: Portraits of Ten Artists Whose Work and Lifestyles Embody the Future of Contemporary Art
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Lives of the Artists: Portraits of Ten Artists Whose Work and Lifestyles Embody the Future of Contemporary Art

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  409 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
"Brilliantly illuminating . . . This latter-day Vasari puts his dry wit and keen eye to work in fashioning enduring portraits of ten contemporary-art stars, tracing the fruits of creative genius back to their strange roots."—Vogue

For more than four decades Calvin Tomkins's incisive profiles in The New Yorker have given readers the most satisfying reports on contemporary ar
...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by Holt Paperbacks (first published October 28th 2008)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Lives of the Artists, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Lives of the Artists

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Alex
Jan 07, 2012 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, read-in-2012
A revealing compilation of essays on several prominent contemporary artists. I liked Tomkins' personal, conversational approach and general lack of judgment, but I would have liked a wider variety of subject matter. 10 different artists and only one woman, no people of color, and no one from outside of the American/European tradition- that seems narrow-minded to me.
Duc
Jun 22, 2009 Duc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book confirmed that Richard Serra is a total Dick head. And I mean that as a compliment to the author for making it obvious in each paragraph. If you are a great artist you too can get away with this The title borrows from the classic Giorgio Vasari's 'Lives of the Artist'. Tomkins work allows him intimate access to the house and studios of these fine artists. The writing seems less serious then Vasari's. I attempt to read it long ago but it proved to be a snooze-fest. Perhaps I'll try to r ...more
Mary
Mar 21, 2009 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Valuable to me for the sections about Richard Serra,
James Turrell and Jasper Johns, the three (of the ten
artists featured) who particularly intrigue me. I
skimmed the other sections with less interest, but
do consider this a useful compilation of Tomkins's
articles from the New Yorker. (I'd have called it
"Lives of Some Artists," though.)
Carol
Jan 23, 2010 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Calvin Tomkins writes reviews on Art for the New Yorker. This book was a collection of previously printed articles he had done on Contemporary Modern artists. Each artist reviewed was different in their choice of medium, lifestyle, intellectual approach to art. I enjoyed this!
Susan
May 16, 2009 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading this book I have a new found appreciation for Damien Hirst, more respect for Cindy Sherman, a reaffirmation of supreme apathy for Matthew Barney, a fascination of Maurizio Cattelan, and would someone please tell Jeff Koons to go away already.
Misha
Apr 08, 2016 Misha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-my-library
Good mix of artist interviews. Some better than others, but definitely a few gems in here.
Lindagriggsart
Aug 06, 2009 Lindagriggsart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing book. I don't entirely understand how Calvin Tomkins got such access to the inner lives and family lives of these contemporary artists. I guess that they sense he is not going to be judgmental. In his writing he leaves it the viewer to decide about the artists motives, etc. But even when some belligerent, insecure artist is yelling at Tomkin's wife Tomkins remains objective and sensitive to the artists quirks while honestly relating the circumstances.
It's a very special book that ch
...more
Amar Pai
Dec 26, 2011 Amar Pai rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always liked Tomkins's artist profiles for the New Yorker, so I enjoyed reading this collection of some of the more high profile ones. Damien Hirst and James Turrell seem really cool, like they'd be fun to hang out with. Richard Serra and Jasper Johns on the other hand come across as real toolboxes. Serra in particular seems like a major dick.

Oh I guess I should list who's in here

James Turrell
Jasper Johns
Matthew Barney
Cindy Sherman
some italiano whose name escapes me
Damien Hirst
Julian Schnab
...more
Kathleen
Jan 05, 2015 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, biography, 2014
I know art is a state of mind, but I've had a hard time understanding conceptual art. This book shows how conceptual artists take an idea and run with it, haphazardly, skillfully, lucratively -- confidently calling their escapades art. They are artists. They make art.
Painting -- been done, done, done...sculpture from stone -- so yesterday! But hey, I've got an idea! Float a dead shark in formaldehyde ... stick a circle of dead butterflies onto the wall ... consider ways to channel the elusive e
...more
Monica
May 18, 2011 Monica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book took me a long time to finish, since some parts of this book were more compelling than others. Many of the artists were hard to identify with on a personal level - I almost felt like Tomkins predisposed me to like or dislike the person, based on the way that he described each individual. I felt less inclined to pick up this book if I had to slog through a chapter about an artist whose personality or history was off-putting to me.

In some cases, I feel like I resonate better with the ar
...more
Jose
May 23, 2010 Jose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interessante coleção de minibios de artistas plásticos contemporâneos.... Nada em comum entre eles, nehum destino impresso numa grande bússola, a não ser gostos por arte precoces cuja intensidade indica que são bençãos do espaço sideral.

Destacaria a minibio de John Curry como uma das mais interessantes por desenrolar as inspirações e técnicas de um artista simplesmente figurativo - tão pouco escultórico, ou criador de instalações, vídeos, filmes.... com outros...

Pode-se sentir a presença de Duch
...more
Lauren Albert
Oct 04, 2010 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it
A collection of essays about contemporary artists (I've marked with an asterix those I didn't previously know). Tomkins made me appreciate more the work of some artists that I hadn't liked. He couldn't do it with Koons--I really dislike his work. But Tomkins is a good art reporter--he gives a very good sense of the artist's life and method of working without judgment.
Damien Hirst
Cindy Sherman
Julian Schnabel
Richard Serra
James Turrell *
Matthew Barney *
Maurizio Cattelan *
Jasper Johns
Jeff Koons
John
...more
Jeff
Nov 06, 2010 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Very well-written portraits of living visual artists. It was nice to revisit some of these fascinating profiles that I originally read in the The New Yorker. Tomkins has introduced me to some artists I wasn't familiar with (or so I thought) and has caused me to seek out their work, if only out of curiosity.
Randall
I always enjoy what my favorite artists are like as people as well as artists, and this book provided great insights into Jasper Johns, Damien Hirst, and Julian Schnabel in particular. I wonder now if Hirst's genius is connected to his desire to remove his trousers in public or willingness to destroy his own art so that someone he doesnt like cant have it.
Andrea Paul Amboyer
So I've decided to write reviews now... If you like visual art, this book is great. Especially if you are kind of curious about artists' lives and you find stories about personal journeys and coming of age extremely motivating. This book has those things. It also talks a great deal about process and media.

If you don't like visual art, I'd suggest another book.
Shurooq Amin
Jul 03, 2009 Shurooq Amin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The insight into the lives of the artists chosen for this book is valid, exciting, relevant. Though I knew about the work of - for example - James Turrell, Richard Serra, Mathew Barney - I was not prepared for the personal accounts of their everyday lives, or of how their thought process began and ended, if ever. I'm inspired by the lives of these artists and would read it again.
David Macpherson
Jun 10, 2010 David Macpherson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tomkis just writes so well. I love how he shows the artists. He is always kind to his subjects, that is something you have to accept going in, but the vivd details are so amazing. Just love this writer
Pamela
Feb 22, 2010 Pamela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was entertaining and well written, but it was already too out of date by the time it was published. The author needed to provide more current information from the time when the book was published.
Mary
Feb 24, 2010 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was like finding an old friend for me. If you have any interest in the art world, this book is full of descriptive stories that gives you incite into who the artist moving the art world today, and what moves them.
Derick Van
Oct 29, 2013 Derick Van rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book outlining the lives of some of today's biggest artists and the way they became who they are. Very insightful and well written. As an artist living in NYC, this book opened my eyes up to a lot a new and exciting ideas. For a non artist, it might not be as compelling.
Brandon
Jul 18, 2011 Brandon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick overview of the lives of a number of well known (read: rich) artists. Tomkins does a good job of talking about their lives and how they live while not getting bogged down in talking about the theory of the work that they make.
Keerthi Vikas
Jul 03, 2016 Keerthi Vikas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good review on the lifes of all the artists.
Natalie
Jun 10, 2012 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the style of Vasari, this book is a biography of the world's greatest contemporary artists. I must read for art lovers. A great book to pick up and put down. You'll learn something each time.
Ryan Chapman
Nov 28, 2008 Ryan Chapman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, essays
Simultaneously intelligent an an ease to read, this book is essential for any art fan. Even those casually interested will find many points of entry in Tomkins' essays.
Elizabeth
Jul 14, 2009 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative and fun!
Alaina
Feb 15, 2013 Alaina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites


Highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in contemporary art. I can't wait to read more by Clavin Tomkins.
Anca
Apr 30, 2011 Anca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd love to see an Elles version of this.
Sarah
Aug 22, 2010 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
by far the best thing i read in 2010. actual review coming... later.
Ellen
Dec 03, 2008 Ellen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great essays on contemporary artists. I think most were published in the New Yorker.
Sean Billy
Mostly superficial. Potentially insightful in terms of short small glimpses into the artists' lives from an almost aerial overview. Too NYC centric given the book's premise.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Human Anatomy: A Visual History from the Renaissance to the Digital Age
  • Leo and His Circle: The Life of Leo Castelli
  • Conceptual Art (Phaidon Art and Ideas)
  • Wassily Kandinsky: 1866-1944 a Revolution in Painting
  • My Name is Charles Saatchi and I am an Artoholic
  • The End of Art
  • Born Under Saturn: The Character and Conduct of Artists
  • Creative Illustration Workshop for Mixed-Media Artists: Seeing, Sketching, Storytelling, and Using Found Materials
  • Rogues' Gallery The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money that Made the Metropolitan Museum
  • John Singer Sargent
  • The Air is on Fire
  • Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell
  • Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • But is It Art?: An Introduction to Art Theory
  • Art and Culture: Critical Essays
  • The Invisible Dragon: Essays on Beauty
  • A Face to the World: On Self Portraits
  • Outsider Art: Spontaneous Alternatives
131584
Calvin Tomkins has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1960. He wrote his first fiction piece for the magazine in 1958, and his first fact piece in 1962. His many Profile subjects have included Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Philip Johnson, Julia Child, Georgia O’Keeffe, Leo Castelli, Frank Stella, Carmel Snow, Christo and Jeanne-Clau ...more
More about Calvin Tomkins...

Share This Book