We know it – many felt that art history is something old and dusty that is taught to us through a bunch of slides shuffling in a dark room. We all see the scene it is almost like it is out of the Mona Lisa Smile movie with Julia Roberts and Kristen Dunst. But what if there was another way, more than one more way to look at it, to think about it, to talk about it. What if there was a way to include overlooked or forgotten – the write a Contemporary Art History. This is something that we see more and more emerging, with a change in the old guard and many more women taking upon themselves to look at how we have looked and been looked at.

A Little History of Art by Charlotte Mullins takes us back to the date and time when some of the most sensational art pieces were made. From ancient time to Apeshit (yes, you read correctly – and yes, I am talking about Beyoncé and Jay-Z video clip), the reader travels through many eras and places, from the Audoubert Caves in France 17,000 years ago to the modern world of revolutionary and global artists like Shirin Neshat and Ai Weiwei. This book is a walk through history at a consistent pace of discovery and rethinking, of what if. A fly-on-the-wall perspective into the rooms of many notable artists from different art periods – From the Nok Terracottas of Africa, the Renaissance paintings of Michelangelo to Frida Kahlo’s Naive art, it is filled with stories, fun ways to look at things and how to stop reading things from today’s perspective.

One of the most distinguishing features of this book is the fact that it expands our vision of art history and who we consider great artists through time and history (and who might have been forgotten or left behind). It serves as an alternative to the art history books we’ve been reading for years by broadening our understanding of what art is and should be, who the artists were and who/what inspired them, and makes central again the many marginalized or overlooked artists of each respective period.

Also, even if you haven’t read the book (YET!) we invite you to reflect on these questions before our discussion with Charlotte Mullins on Instagram Live:

  • Have you ever reflected on how your perception of artwork would have been different if you would have discover it when it was created? Have you ever think about contemporary artwork through the lens of someone in 50 years?
  • Have you ever thought, while visiting a museum, about the behind-the-scenes and the process of how objects are selected for an exhibition?
  • How did those objects and artworks find their way to a museum, what was their journey? Which stories are encapsulated within them?

As usual, it is our pleasure to give away 5 copies of A Little History of Art. Please comment on our giveaway post on Instagram to enter it! You will get additional chances to win your copy by leaving comments, asking questions for the author and tagging other people.

And it is your chance to ask an art critic the burning questions that you always wanted to ask. We want to read them, and Charlotte in a conversation with myself, evlyne Laurin, will discuss them in an upcoming Instagram Live on June 29th at Noon EST | 5 PM BST. What are your expectations about this book? Anything you hope to discover by reading it? Questions you hope to get answers to?

And if you have a suggestion for us regarding the book club or even a book to suggest – email el@nic.art.
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More about the author

Charlotte Mullins is an art critic, writer, and broadcaster. A former editor of ArtReview, V&A Magazine, and Art Quarterly, she has published more than a dozen books on visual art, two of which are art books for children, which were published under the pen name Charlie Ayres.