Top 5 Art Books

By David Taylor RGD, Creative Director, AWAKE STUDIO shares his top five art books of all time. 


For my second turn at RGD’s Top 5, I’m returning to the theme of books. While the last time I showcased my Top 5 Book Designs, this time I’m focusing on art books. This is a pretty broad category but I’m highlighting the ones that I find myself referring back to the most – for inspiration, nostalgia or just pure enjoyment. Like the last time, it proved agonizing to pick just five as this list could easily spiral on indefinitely…

The Isaac Mizrahi Pictures

Nick Waplington

As a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s in Scarborough I would countdown until the weekly airing of Fashion Television (faithfully setting our VCR to if I was going to miss it). Isaac Mizrahi was a constant staple. Later he would star in a documentary called “Unzipped”, directed by Douglas Keeve. Almost weekly, he reminded me that there was another world out there – one that was bigger and more interesting and artistically-driven than that of my suburban teenage life. This book documents the fashion world he inhabited at the height of his fame in a series of documentary-style photos that drip with nostalgia and the decadence of the late 80s and early 90s. 

Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton

Laura Hoptman

“Elizabeth Peyton is best known for her unmistakable portraits of musicians, fashion icons and subculture luminaries.” Her portraits often veer towards the illustrative and I find that’s what gives them so much personality and interest. In some cases, they are deceptively simple with bold and economical brushwork but you can lose yourself in the narrative of each and every image. 


Rinko Kawauchi

I stumbled upon Rinko's show several years back while at the Getty Museum in LA. Her work is an exercise in subtleties, down to the way the book itself is laid out. A write-up of her work says it much better than I ever could: “her exploration of the extraordinary in the mundane, drawn to the fundamental cycles of life and the seemingly inadvertent, fractal-like organization of the natural world into formal patterns.” I find something heartbreakingly melancholic about her work and I find myself reaching for it when I’m having a less than stellar day and want to remind myself I’m not alone in that feeling.  

Marcel Dzama: Sower of Discord

Marcel Dzama

If you don’t know Marcel Dzama you absolutely need to. He constructs illustrated works with the most intriguing (and sometimes disturbing) narratives that are charming and strangely compelling. Plus, the book contains three original short stories inspired by Dzama’s work by Dave Eggers as well an interview with Spike Jonze. He’s a true Canadian artist success story.


Greater New York

Glen D. Lowry (foreward), Klaus Biesenbach (introduction)

This show was on display the first time I went to PS1 in New York and it really left an impression. The exhibition showcased “150 artists who have emerged since 2000. Their work explores this specific time period, during which New York City has changed dramatically; shows vitality, energy and exciting promise; and anticipates new artistic directions.” On top of this, the cover is a vinyl substrate that feels so unique and unusual. It always immediately transports me back to 2005 the moment I crack the cover.