100 Years, 100 Artworks: A History of Modern and Contemporary Art
Prestel, April 2019
Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 10-3/4 inches | 216 pages | 100 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3791384849 | $34.95
Starting with Marcel Duchamp’s 1919 whimsical, brilliant L.H.O.O.Q., this compendium offers a year-by-year tour of iconic paintings, photographs, sculptures, installations, and performance pieces from all over the world. The works are carefully selected to showcase a diverse range of artists. Read from cover to cover, this volume offers an evocative summary of stylistic trends, historic events, and technological innovations that changed art over the past 100 years. Opening the book to any random page will illuminate a singular perspective and aesthetic delight. Each work is impeccably reproduced and presented in double-page spreads alongside informative and engaging texts. From Georgia O’Keeffe and Man Ray to Kara Walker and Ai Weiwei, this unique survey will both satisfy and surprise art lovers everywhere.
I can’t think of anything more flattering than having a format I developed be appealing enough to have a life beyond my own contributions. Such is the case with 100 Years, 100 Artworks, which follows from my 100 Years, 100 Buildings and 100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs. (Prestel, which published my two books, asked for my permission, something I was glad to give.) While I’ll admit I didn’t invent or beat others to the punch in the one-project-per-year format (C20 has published a few of them, though I didn’t discover them until after pitching my first 100 Years book to Prestel in 2015), I’ll also admit the approach isn’t easy, especially when it comes to curating the selection. Although the format allows for a chronological unfolding of a century — its best trait — it also forces the omission of many projects and requires extensive research, at least with buildings and landscape designs, to nail down sometimes elusive dates. With this in mind, I’m excited to see another author tackle another theme using the 100 Years structure.
Flipping through 100 Years, 100 Artworks by art historian Ágnes Berecz, my first thought is that the format is more suited to art than buildings and landscapes. Most art takes a lot less time to produce than architecture; and given that paintings, sculptures, and other artworks are typically displayed in exhibitions, dates are easier to establish. Although the media of art can vary from two-dimensional canvases to three-dimensional sculptures and fleeting performances, seeing 100 years of art unfold year by year really provides a strong indication of how art has changed in that time and how artists have responded to the world around them. Curiously, 100 Years, 100 Artworks is bookended by a couple readymades: Duchamp’s mustached Mona Lisa and Karin Schneider’s piece that consists of an iPad displaying “SHE” in front of a black canvas, both tucked into a custom sleeve. The former is famous but the latter is unknown to me. This reflects the book as a whole: familiar works by famous artists are loaded at the front, while the years closer to the present are more obscure. In turn, I enjoyed discovering artworks this century, when I’ve spent less time looking at art and more time writing about buildings. Nevertheless, every now and then I came across an artwork I’ve seen in person, such as Christian Marclay’s The Clock. Berecz calls it “a broken monument to the history of cinema” and “a riddle that enchants and frustrates its viewers” — revealing takes on just one of a hundred artworks worth knowing about.
Ágnes Berecz is an art historian who has taught courses at Christie’s New York, the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. She completed her Ph.D. at Panthéone–Sorbonne University in Paris.