Until rather recently, a look at the world’s leading artists at work would have yielded fairly similar results: self-assured, oil-painting men presiding over canvas-stacked studios, perhaps surrounded by a squad of assistants who knew how to mix the pigments just so and were quietly dispatched to take over for the master when he couldn’t be bothered to paint a subject’s hands or to perfectly render a drapery. Contemporary artists are a little more…diverse, as likely to produce a digitally-manipulated photograph of a never-ending 99-cent store (Andreas Gursky) as a tent appliquéd with a complete list of the artist’s sexual partners (Tracey Emin).
Photographer Jason Schmidt takes on the fragmented, fickle and fascinating international contemporary art scene in Artists (Edition 7L), a new book of 125 portraits of international contemporary artists in their "natural habitats." Adding dimension and context to the photos are accompanying texts written by the artists (including Ed Ruscha, Luc Tuymans, Doug Aitken, Liz Larner, Laura Owens and Richard Prince), personal narratives that contextualize the images and shed further light on each artist’s creative process.
Art scene veterans and neophytes alike will be entranced by Artists and come away with a better understanding of the worlds it depicts. And with work that is more likely to involve tons of painstakingly sculpted petroleum jelly (Matthew Barney), a photorealistic sculpture of Pope John Paul II struck down by a meteorite (Maurizio Cattelan) or a night spent in a bed on the top of the Eiffel Tower (Sophie Calle) than a classical portrait, perhaps we viewers need all the help we can get.