Feature

Simon Doonan's 6 favorite art books

The fashion writer recommends books by Grayson Perry, Andy Warhol, and more

Fashion writer Simon Doonan is a judge on NBC's reality series Making It and the author of several books, including the memoir Beautiful People and a new pocket-size biography of artist Keith Haring. Below, Doonan recommends six favorite art books.

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol by Andy Warhol (1975).

Warhol had thoughts that went way beyond all that stuff about being famous for 15 minutes. He is a quirky, quotable guy, the Chauncey Gardiner of the art world. Examples: "I never fall apart, because I never fall together" and my personal favorite, "If everybody's not a beauty, then nobody is."

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl by Grayson Perry (2006).

Grayson Perry — potter, painter, transvestite, and public intellectual — is a beloved British folk hero. As this bleak and fascinating autobio reveals, Grayson has come by his adoration honestly. He is unpretentious, insightful, hilarious, and just an all-round great bloke (and occasional girl via his colorful alter ego, Claire).

Carnival Strippers by Susan Meiselas (1976).

Broken nails, broken dreams, and stretch marks: These blunt and poignant photographs of itinerant burlesque queens, and accompanying text, are both depressing and uplifting. Even under the leaky tent of a traveling strip show, there is hope and humanity. Caution: The brilliance and originality of this book have rendered it collectible. Copies trade for $500.

Victorian Fairy Painting (1997).

So there I was, exiting the historic "Sensation" show at London's Royal Academy of Arts in the late '90s, when I stumbled upon the adjacent show, "Victorian Fairy Painting." Suddenly Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, and the gang did not seem quite as demented. The trippy, meticulous work of Joseph Noel Paton, Richard Dadd, Charles Doyle, and others offers a terrifying window into the twisted Victorian psyche.

Our True Intent Is All for Your Delight (2003).

In the 1960s, spending time at various locations of Butlin's, a chain of British holiday resorts, introduced me to the joys of kitsch. I am forever grateful to photographer Martin Parr, who had the vision to unearth the great postcard photographer John Hinde and immortalize his oeuvre in this gorgeous larger format.

The Fantastic Art of Boris Vallejo (1978).

The fantasy paintings of Vallejo scream "biker bar." His world of scaly monsters, muscled barbarians, and & bikini-clad viragos is outrageous and fabulous and cannot be ignored. What makes Vallejo such a winner? His wicked skills with oil paint are as otherworldly as his subject matter.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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