coffee table curator

Coffee Table Curator: Ballet, Basquiat, and Tyler Mitchell’s Arcadia of Black Beauty

Published August 17, 2020

Coffee Table Curator is a monthly series showing—no, telling—you which art and culture books to add to your living room repertoire; your remote control and beer-stained coasters will look chic by association. Here’s what we have to recommend for the month of August for when you’ve proposed marriage to your coffee table and you only want to give her the nicest of things.

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I Can Make You Feel Good, Prestel, $60.00

Some may say 25 is too young to publish a monograph, but in Tyler Mitchell’s case, it couldn’t have come at a riper age. The Brooklyn-based photographer is a wunderkind; the whiz-kid that simultaneously became the first Black photographer, and one of the youngest, to shoot the cover of American Vogue when he shot Beyoncé for the 2018 September issue. That shoot cemented Mitchell as one of the most in-demand photographers working today. In I Can Make You Feel Good, the photographer conceives an arcadia of Black beauty, a poetic paradise that unfurls like a marching band traipsing through a secret garden that only blooms happiness and joy. 

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Ballet, Steidl Books, $50.00

If Arthur Elgort’s body of work were to be performed as a recital, each photograph would be considered a principal dancer. The culmination of the artist’s portfolio can be used as a curriculum for a master class in fashion photography, and his latest publication continues to set the bar high. Published this month, Ballet showcases a series of images of dancers both on and off stage a dazzling spectacle that takes flight, showcasing an intimate portrayal of both strength and softness from a plie to saute.

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Naomi, Taschen, $150.00

If Helen of Troy’s face launched a thousand ships, Naomi Campbell’s blasted off a billion satellites into outer space. Since being discovered in 1985, the supermodel has been orbiting the globe on and off the catwalk, making herself a mainstay in magazines, advertising campaigns, music videos, and more. She graced Anna Wintour’s very first September issue in 1989, pounced around Interview in Azzedine Alaïa, and even wore couture to community service. Back in 2016, Taschen released a two-volume dedicative set encased in a Allen Jones-designed shell in the bust of the icon’s bosom. If $3,000 is too pretty of a penny for that version, the publisher’s new updated edition will cost you a fraction of the price but fulfill your fashion fantasies all the same.

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AUTOPORTRAIT, Steidl Books, $85.00

At 13, a teenaged Samuel Fosso launched his very own commercial photo studio in Bangui, the capital city of the Central African Republic. If that doesn’t impress you, Fosso’s first comprehensive monograph released nearly five decades later surely will. In AUTOPORTRAIT, the artist’s body of work is like attending a family reunion in portraiture form. The book conjures an intoxicating tranquility akin to reading Chicken Soup For the Soul, filling viewers with a warmness and familiarity. The sophisticatedly-designed volume feels like it was made up of photographs that were hidden away in a shoebox under a bed, only to be pulled out and treasured for a short while. Thankfully, Steidl’s newest edition will allow the world to revel in Fosso’s glow. 

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Athens Riviera, Assouline, $95.00

Some go to Athens for the Acropolis, others for the Parthenon. But a stone’s throw away from the Greek capital, is the Athens Riviera, a sumptuous yet little-known paradise. Powdered beaches are littered with parasols the color of Santorini rooftops, and underneath them lie the glitterati who visit the destination for its succulent seafood, lavish resorts, and replenishing breezes. Author Stéphanie Artarit pens Assouline’s luxury city guide like a love letter to the destination; so much so that you’d think it was written by Aphrodite herself.

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Basquiat – 40th Anniversary Edition, Taschen, $25.00

Complex, brooding, enigmatic, genius. Many words can be used to describe Jean-Michel Basquiat, but Taschen’s 40th anniversary edition monograph on the late artist will render you speechless. Released next month, Basquiat is the definitive volume on the artist and reads like the most gorgeous dictionary a comprehensive survey of the visionary’s collective works that spans 512 pages. Each one stirs a certain incoherence in its readers, making it difficult to comprehend the craftsmanship, delectable palettes, and imagination the artist was able to achieve in just a short lifetime.