TASCHEN’S 25th Year Special Edition – 100 Contemporary Artists

Sep 14, 2010 by D. J. Schwartz

Starting with the publication of TASCHEN’S book, Art at the Turn of the Millennium by authors, Burkhard Riemschneider, Lars Bang Larsen, Christoph Blase, Yilmaz Dziewior, Michel Ribettes, Raimar Stange and Susanne Titz; along with the editorial team of Jan Verwoert, Astrid Wege, Burkhard Riemschneider, and Uta Grosenick, it served as a significant primer and insight into contemporary art and artists at the time of its publication in 1999.

Subsequently TASCHEN presciently published every 2 years, 3 additional chronicles of art with their “Art Now” books.

Over the last decade, TASCHEN’S publication of the 3 “Art Now” books has established and documented the ever changing art and artists who, for the most part, have helped to define this varied assemblage of “Modern Art.”

The 100 Contemporary Artists book is published in 2 volumes according to the Artists last names–from A-H, and L-Z.

Kara Walker, They Waz Nice Folks While They Lasted (Says One Gal to Another), 2001, cut paper, projection on wall, ca 427 x 610 cm

With TASCHEN’S reputation for absolute perfection and attention to graphic and elegant detail, the two volume books and covers are exceptional with their glossy matte finish that feature artist’s Peter Doing’s, picture “Figure in Red Boat,” on the front DJ, and Olafur Eliasson’s, “The Weather Project, Turbine Hall,” on the back Dust Jacket on Volume 1; and Wofgang Tillmans, picture “Freischwimmer 20s, on the front DJ, and Kara Walker’s “For the Benefit of All the Races of Mankind” on the back Dust Jacket for Volume 2.

TASCHEN’S special large slipcase holds both books in honor of their 25th anniversary.

The combined result by its author/editor Hans Werner Holzwarth, is an extremely large and well documented assemblage of the 100 Contemporary Artists who are most reflective of the paradox of their international importance, yet transitional role they currently have in today’s art world.

With their wide ranging types, genres, styles and themes, they’re currently in “the moment” to help us to firmly and definitively understand contemporary art along with the most important artists over the last decade.

Beatriz Milhazes, O Beijo, 1995, acrylic on canvas, 193 x 299.7 cm

The range of art and artists which are documented cuts a huge swath of all types of art:

Multi-Media; Performance; Painting; Photography; Abstract Image Drawing and Painting; Filmmaking; Sculpture; Kitsch; Watercolors, Ceramics; Architecture; Camera Obscura; and a plethora of other styles and genres that make TASCHEN’S 100 Contemporary Artists so important–they’re our curator that features the international compendium of artists and their works of art that provide the reader with a current comprehensive understanding of the art and art world, that best defines contemporary art from 1999 – 2009.

Imagine having to explain another subject of a complex nature in another pandect, and you begin to understand that while the art world’s sea is always churning, its anchors are moored by the decade’s hard work and efforts of TASCHEN, which “offers us a representative selection and identifies the artists’ oeuvres.”

Wangechi Mutu, A Fake Jewel in the Crown, 2007, mixed media, ink, collage on mylar, 226 x 137 cm

The scope, depth, breath, and the significant artistic forms we gleam are but a glimpse into the totality of the work from the 100 featured contemporary artists. There’s bound to be exciting new discoveries and deep appreciation and aesthetic understanding of the artists we become familiar with in these 2 volumes; on the other hand–as always one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor–everybody will predictably have their likes and dislikes and that’s OK, because that’s the goal of why this book is so important—it helps us to understand a movement which doesn’t require us to like everything that’s in it.

And that’s what makes the world go around. But make no mistake, the artistic aesthetics represented in this book’s two volumes, are at times dark and delve deep into the human subconscious and unconscious, which at times are somewhat uncomfortable.

And that’s what makes this assemblage so real–from the psycho-sexual, to the overt and covertly psychological–the art can be both moving and disturbing.  But that’s the artist’s role, to act as our interpreter and guide to evoke the images and objects for us to appreciate and try to understand what the artist has created–to convey what they want us to see, feel and interpret.

To quote one of the featured artists, Rineke Dijkstra:

For me it is essential to understand that everyone is alone. Not in the sense of loneliness, but rather in the sense that no one can completely understand someone else. I want to awaken definite sympathies.

Subodh Gupta, Spill, 2007, stainless steel, stainless stelle utensils, 170 x 145 x 95 cm

Who and what better to visually convey to us our most complicated and inner and outer psychological thoughts and emotions than talented and emotionally intelligent artists

100 Contemporary Artists brings together the most outstanding, influential, and important artists of the last ten years:

Included are such formative figures including Marlene Dumas, Damien Hirst, Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons, Albert Oehlen, Richard Prince, Charles Ray, Cindy Sherman, Christopher Wool featured alongside Glenn Brown, Nathalie Djurberg, Tom Fredman, Mark Grotjahn and Terence Koh.

They’re prominent representatives of a younger generation which is blazing their own trails.

After ten years of “Art Now,” this collection draws a interim balance…into the focus on the works, positions, trends, and traditions that have repeatedly stirred heated debate–both in the art world itself and amongst the general public.”

Ai Weiwei, Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo, 1994, Han Dynasty urn, paint, 25.5. x 28 x 28 cm

While that’s quite an understatement above, I discovered and rediscovered such talented artists in the book including Bansky, Ai Weiwei, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Monica Bonvicini, Cecily Brown, Andreas Gursky, Keith Haring (of course), Vera Lutter, Philip Taaffe, Francesco Vezzoli, Richard Phillips, Beatriz Milhazes, and Takashi Murakami to name my personal favorites, among others not listed as well.

Editor, Hans Werner Holzwaert, intelligently and thoroughly lists all of the 100 artists’ biographies and publications, along with the obligatory acknowledgments and photo credits.

Without sounding sentimental or sanguine about the matter, TASCHEN’S 100 Contemporary Artists defines the current modern art scene as its now stands, and serves as its definitive guide as well.

If you’re an art and book lover, this TASCHEN publication should already belong in your library. With its amazing pictures and perfect images of the artists works, this is a very special book.

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