Companion Book for Season 5 of "Art in the Twenty-First Century"


The Season Five companion volume, Art in the Twenty First Century 5 mirrors the unique strengths of the Peabody Award winning PBS television series. This 224 page volume presents 14 contemporary artists at work and in their own words. The artists' reflections on their processes and inspirations are juxtaposed dynamically with lush, full-color images of their work. The book also includes an introductory essay by Executive Producer Susan Sollins and artist biographies. (over 370 illustrations in full color). Artists profiled include John Baldessari, Cao Fei, Mary Heilmann, William Kentridge, Kimsooja, Jeff Koons, Florian Maier-Aichen, Paul McCarthy, Allan McCollum, Julie Mehretu, Doris Salcedo, Cindy Sherman, Yinka Shonibare MBE, and Carrie Mae Weems.

Contemporary art speaks directly to the important questions of our time, as well as to the changing landscape of American identity. It is both a mirror of contemporary society and a window through which we view and deepen our understanding of life as it exists today. Who are today’s artists? What are they thinking about? How do they describe their work? Why do they do what they do?

These are some of the questions addressed in Art in the Twenty-First Century 5, companion volume to the fourth season of the Emmy-nominated PBS series, which introduces seventeen artists who draw on a variety of subjects, experiences, and aesthetic influences to create their work. The book echoes the style and philosophy of the television series, presenting the artists without interpretive mediation through excerpts of interviews juxtaposed with illustrations of their work. Among those profiled are widely recognized artists such as William Kentridge, John Baldessari, and Carrie Mae Weems and lesser-known artists such as Cao Fei, Florian Maier-Aichen, and Julie Mehretu.

Images of the artists culled from documentary footage provide a behind-the-scenes look into the creative process. In a rich mosaic, the artists are depicted at home, in the studio, and in the community—with collaborators, friends, and family—debunking the Romantic notion of the artist as an isolated genius. An intimate portrait, these visuals capture what Susan Sollins, Curator and Executive Producer of the Art in the Twenty-First Century series, describes as the moment when “the makers—those who have allowed their own creativity to flow—look us directly in the eye.” Throughout this volume the artists’ varied and engaging voices speak to us directly—musing, analyzing, and laughing about their lives, work, and inspiration.

About the Author

Susan Sollins, Art21, Executive Producer and Curator
Susan Sollins has been well known in the field of contemporary art for more than 30 years for her innovations in public programming and museum education, and as a curator. In addition to her work for many art institutions as a curator and consultant, Sollins is the co-founder and Executive Director Emerita of Independent Curators International (ICI), a non-profit museum without walls that develops, organizes, and circulates traveling exhibitions of contemporary art that present a broad range of recent trends and aesthetic concerns to viewers nationwide and abroad. During her 21-year tenure as Executive Director, ICI’s 75 exhibitions featuring more than 1,700 artists were seen at more than 360 institutions and alternative spaces in the US, Europe, Canada and Mexico. Sollins was formerly the Visual Arts Consultant for Thirteen/WNET’s Emmy and Peabody Award-winning arts magazine City Arts; serves on the Board of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), the MacDowell Colony, and ICI, and has been a panelist for the NEA, NYSCA, and New York’s Percent for Art program. Early in her career, Sollins was the Curator of Education (Chief, Museum Programs) at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution and the Curator of its Discovery Museum, which showcased contemporary and other art.