by Omar Kholeif et al. Thames & Hudson, October 2018. 192 p. ill. ISBN 9780500519967 (h/c), $29.95.
Reviewed May 2019
Rhana Tabrizi, Associate Institute Archivist, Institute Archives, California Institute of the Arts, firstname.lastname@example.org
In his new book The Artists Who Will Change the World, Omar Kholeif—a curator, writer, editor, and broadcaster with over one hundred exhibitions to his name—provides readers with a survey of over fifty socially, culturally, and politically engaged artists who he considers to be the most urgent and influential working today, including Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Jumana Manna, and Guan Xiao.
In an attempt to map the “divergent strands of art that are developing around the world” and the truly-globalized art networks that have emerged in the past few decades, Kholeif has assembled a group of artists that represent a far greater range of perspectives than the western European framework on which art history has traditionally been built (though it is worth noting a wide majority of the artists included are at least partially based in the U.S. or western Europe).
While many of the artists share overlapping interests (e.g., futurity, archaeology, utopia, and failure), Kholeif has divided the artists/entries into four sections: “Technology,” focusing on artists who are rethinking our engagement with technological advancements, “Identity,” considering constructions of identity and the self under the forces of globalization, “Place,” examining relationships to both physical and abstract sites and communities, and “Power,” in which he considers the works of artists who are critiquing the power and reach of political state apparatuses. Through easy-to-read, single-page entries, Kholeif provides broad (while brief) introductions to each artist’s/collective’s career before spending a few paragraphs analyzing individual works of art.
This edition is well-illustrated, with documentation and reproductions of at least two works of art to accompany nearly every entry. The writing is both engaging and descriptive and the images are vibrant. However, considering this text is meant to serve as an “introductory field guide,” as Kholeif describes it in his preface to the book, it is unfortunate that there is no bibliography included, which would have strengthened its effectiveness as a tool for researchers, especially those who are new to art history and criticism. The Artists Who Will Change the World also includes a brief introductory text by author and visual artist Douglas Coupland. This book is recommended for libraries in colleges and universities that teach art history at the undergraduate level.