At NERAM we want to make sure that while our community is being responsible by staying home that they are still connected to art, culture and entertainment. So we are bringing you a new series called Quarantine Culture that points you in the direction of art-related content that you can access from home.
Quarantine Culture #2 explores books that have art as part of their plot or subject matter: art heists, stories that focus on a famous artist or painting and historic creative rivalries all make the list. Books are a great way to travel, explore and encounter the unknown from the comfort of your couch. This top 10 has been compiled by our friends at Reader’s Companion who know all about great stories.
My Life as Fake by Peter Carey
In steamy, fetid Kuala Lumpur in 1972, Sarah Wode-Douglass, editor of a London poetry journal, meets the mysterious Christopher Chubb. An Australian literary hoaxer, Chubb is carting around a manuscript likely filled with deceit. In this dubious work Sarah recognises a real genius. But whose genius? She is drawn into a fantastic story of imposture, murder, kidnapping, and exile, which couldn’t be true unless its teller were mad. Or perhaps haunted. My Life as a Fake is a Frankenstein story in which what is imagined comes to life and exacts its due.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an explosion that takes the life of his mother. Alone and determined to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan, Theo scrambles between nights in friends’ apartments and on the city streets. He becomes entranced by the one thing that reminds him of his mother: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that soon draws Theo into the art underworld. Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America. It is a story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the enormous power of art.
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracey Chevalier
Those eyes are fixed on someone. But who? What is she thinking as she stares out from one of the world’s best-loved paintings? Johannes Vermeer can spot exceptional beauty. When servant girl Griet catches his eye, she soon becomes both student and muse. But then he gives her his wife’s pearl earrings to wear for a portrait, and a scandal erupts that could threaten Griet’s future. Vivid, captivating and much emulated, this is a timeless modern classic and an international bestseller, with over 5 million copies sold around the world; now with a new introduction by the author.
Alex Clayton Art Mysteries by Katherine Kovacic
- Painting in Shadows
Art dealer Alex Clayton and conservator John Porter are thrilled to be previewing the Melbourne International Museum of Art’s (MIMA) newest exhibition, until they witness a museum worker collapse and badly damage a reportedly cursed painting. Belief in the curse is strengthened when MIMA’s senior conservator Meredith Buchanan dies less than twenty-four hours later while repairing the work. But Alex and John are convinced there is a decidedly human element at work in the museum.
- The Portrait of Molly Dean
In 1999, art dealer Alex Clayton stumbles across a lost portrait of Molly Dean, an artist’s muse brutally slain in Melbourne in 1930. Alex buys the painting and sets out to uncover more details, but finds there are strange inconsistencies: Molly’s mother seemed unconcerned by her daughter’s violent death, the main suspect was never brought to trial despite compelling evidence, and vital records are missing. Alex enlists the help of her close friend, art conservator John Porter, and together they sift through the clues and deceptions that swirl around the last days of Molly Dean.
- The Shipping Landscape
Art dealer Alex Clayton travels to Victoria’s Western District to value the McMillan family’s collection. At their historic sheep station, she finds an important and previously unknown colonial painting – and a family fraught with tension. There are arguments about the future of the property and its place in an ancient and highly significant indigenous landscape. When the family patriarch dies under mysterious circumstances and the painting is stolen, Alex decides to leave; then a toddler disappears and Alex’s faithful dog Hogarth goes missing.
Shell by Kristina Olsson
Sydney, 1960s: newspaper reporter Pearl Keogh has been relegated to the women’s pages as punishment for her involvement in the anti-war movement, and is desperate to find her two young brothers before they are conscripted. Newly arrived from Sweden, Axel Lindquist is set to work as a sculptor on the Sydney Opera House. Haunted by his father’s acts in the Second World War, he seeks solace in his attempts to create a unique piece that will do justice to the vision of Jorn Utzon, the controversial architect of the Opera House’s construction. Pearl and Axel’s lives orbit and collide, as they both struggle in the eye of the storm. This is a soaring, optimistic novel of art and culture, and of love and fate.
Modernists and Mavericks by Martin Gayford
The development of painting in London from the Second World War to the 1970s is the story of interlinking friendships, shared experiences and artistic concerns among a number of acclaimed artists, including Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Gillian Ayres, Frank Bowling and Howard Hodgkin. Drawing on extensive first-hand interviews, many previously unpublished, with important witnesses and participants, the art critic Martin Gayford teases out the thread connecting these individual lives, and demonstrates how painting thrived in London against the backdrop of Soho bohemia in the 1940s and 1950s and ‘Swinging London’ in the 1960s.
The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith
A New York Times Bestseller. An Indie Next Pick. A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. A rare seventeenth-century painting — the only known surviving work of a woman who defied the expectations of her time — links three lives, on three continents, over three centuries in this exhilarating new novel from the critically acclaimed author of The Beautiful Miscellaneous.
The Art of Rivalry by Sebastian Smee
Rivalry is at the heart of some of the most famous and fruitful relationships in history. Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Sebastian Smee tells the fascinating story of four pairs of artists–Manet and Degas, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, Freud and Bacon–whose fraught, competitive friendships spurred them to new creative heights.
Out of this Century: Confessions of an Art Addict by Peggy Guggenheim
This is the fascinating autobiography of a society heiress who became the bohemian doyenne of the art world. Written in her own words it is the frank and outspoken story of her life and loves: her stormy relationships with such men as Max Ernst and Jackson Pollock, and her discovery of new artists. Known as ‘the mistress of modern art’, Peggy Guggenheim was a passionate collector and major patron. She amassed one of the most important collections of early twentieth century European and American art embracing cubism, surrealism and expressionism.
Young Rembrandt by Onno Bloom
An immersive exploration of the little-known story of Rembrandt’s formative years. Rembrandt’s life has always been an enigma. How did a miller’s son from a provincial Dutch town become the greatest artist in the world? With his formative years shrouded in mystery, the only remaining evidence of Rembrandt’s life as a young man is his work. Who was that young man inventing himself as the city around him grew and prospered? How did Rembrandt become Rembrandt? To find out, Onno Blom immersed himself in the world, the country, the city and the house in which Rembrandt was born in 1606 and where he spent the first twenty-five years of his life. The result is a fascinating portrait of the artist as a young man, rich in local and biographical detail, and restless in its efforts to seek out the roots of his genius.
Reader’s Companion is an independent book shop that sells an eclectic mix of books, music, cards and stationery. To make sure that the local community can access all their reading needs during the current COVID-19 restrictions they are offering free local delivery via the orange kombi. Need a book? Shop on-line now!
Want more, did you see Quarantine Culture #1 Podcasts?