Psst, Heard the Art World Gossip? Contemporary Art Really IS for Everyone! Talk ART Book Review

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Our mission at DailyArt Magazine is to make art accessible and fun. When we saw the book Talk ART.: Everything you wanted to know about contemporary art but were afraid to ask by actor Russell Tovey and gallerist Robert Diament, we knew we’d found like-minded souls. From the hot pink cover to the informal, chatty style, you know this is no ordinary art book.

Book cover: talkART by Russell Tovey and Robert Diament, Octopus Publishing, 2021. talk ART book review
Book cover: talkART by Russell Tovey and Robert Diament, Octopus Publishing, 2021.

Gorgeous Artworks

Open the cover and you will be spoilt for choice with gorgeous artworks reproduced on full-color pages, gossipy chat about how art relates to and interacts with life, and spotlights on featured artists with personal stories. There is even a step by step guide on how to navigate your way through contemporary art – finding it, looking at it, and enjoying it.

Yinka Ilore, A Swimming Pool Of Dreams, 2016, Design Museum, London, UK. Photo Dan Weill.  talk ART book review
Yinka Ilore, A Swimming Pool Of Dreams, 2016, Design Museum, London, UK. Photo Dan Weill.

Engaging

The writing style is both engaging and informative. No elitist art world language or jargon here; old-fashioned art academics will be turning in their graves! This is like listening in to two mates having a conversation. And, in fact, that is exactly where the idea for the book came from – a podcast of the two art fans chatting.

Noel McKenna, Apartment, 2019, Art Gallery New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
Noel McKenna, Apartment, 2019, Art Gallery New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

Talk ART Podcast

Russell Tovey and Robert Diament have been friends since they met in August 2008 at a dinner honouring the British artist Tracey Emin. Realising they had similar passions, they began a decade of gallery and studio visits, texting and emailing each other incessantly about what they had seen and found. This friendship led to a podcast, Talk ART, which began in 2018. They reached out to their favorite artists (and gallery owners or curators) for one hour podcasts, where they chatted, asked enthusiastic questions, and generally had fun with art. Talk Art now has a substantial following, with more than 1.8 million downloads. Some episodes are recorded in London, while others are done on location.

Russell Tovey, Tracey Emin, Robert Diament. Russel Tovey's Instagram profile. talk ART book review
Russell Tovey, Tracey Emin, Robert Diament. Russel Tovey’s Instagram profile.

Your Art Community

Listening to the podcast and reading the book is like someone has opened a door you thought was barred to you. Suddenly, the door is ajar, you put your ear to it and eavesdrop on a conversation that is not only understandable, but funny. You look around, and there are people of all ages and backgrounds listening with you. It’s a community – your community, and you are welcomed.

Antony Gormley, Angel of the North, 1998, Gateshead, UK. Artist's website.
Antony Gormley, Angel of the North, 1998, Gateshead, UK. Artist’s website.

Features of the Book

The book features highlights from interviews with artists, curators, actors, musicians, and art collectors. These include: Tracey Emin, David Shrigley, Rose Wylie, Elton John, Lena Dunham, Denzil Forrester, Alasdair McLellan, Billy Porter, Joyce Pensato, Grayson Perry, Cassie Namoda and Toyin Ojih Odutola. In addition, Yinka Ilori, Lenz Geerk and KAWS were among the artists who created artwork specifically for the book.

Grayson Perry, World Leaders Attending the Marriage of Alan Measles and Claire Perry, 2009, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, UK. Royal Academy. talk ART book review
Grayson Perry, World Leaders Attending the Marriage of Alan Measles and Claire Perry, 2009, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, UK. Royal Academy.

The different chapters cover subjects such as feminism, politics, how to find art, how to collect art, and even how to become an artist. All kinds of art media are included – performance art, public art, outsider art, ceramics, photography, painting, even sound art and cartoons. The forward to the book is written by Pulitzer Prize–winning art critic Jerry Saltz, and that entertaining essay is itself worth the purchase price.

Zadie Xa, Linguistic Legacies and Lunar Exploration, 13 Aug 2016, Saturdays Live at the Serpentine Gallery, London, UK. Photo by Manuela Barczewski.
Zadie Xa, Linguistic Legacies and Lunar Exploration, 13 Aug 2016, Saturdays Live at the Serpentine Gallery, London, UK. Photo by Manuela Barczewski.

There are more than 150 images from contemporary artists like Kehinde Wiley, Alvaro Barrington, Katherine Bernhardt, Jon Key, Zadie Xa, and Ana Benaroya. Some of these have never been published before, so this is your chance to see them here first. You won’t like all of it, but that’s ok – the message is to take a look, see what you think, see what you like.

Rose Wylie, Park Dogs and Air Raid, 2017, private collection. Newlyn Art Gallery, Newlyn, UK.
Rose Wylie, Park Dogs and Air Raid, 2017, private collection. Newlyn Art Gallery, Newlyn, UK.

Social Change

Both Tovey and Diament fervently believe that art and creativity are a fundamental part of human nature. The UK government is proposing to cut funding for education in the arts, as if it were a frivolous or unnecessary subject. Both authors argue that cultural expression is vital, and representation is essential. Today more than ever, they argue, we need art which allows us to explore our identity, express our feelings, expose injustice, and pursue social change.

“To see ourselves is to know ourselves… We must all see ourselves represented.”

Russell Tovey and Robert Diament, talk ART, Octopus Publishing, 2021 p. 109 and 116.
Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkins, 2010, New York Botanical Gardens, New York, NY, USA. Instagram.
Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkins, 2010, New York Botanical Gardens, New York, NY, USA. Instagram.

About the Authors

Russell Tovey is an actor, starring in films such as The History Boys (2006) and The Good Liar (2019), as well as a number of TV series including Years and Years (2019) and Being Human (2008). He is a passionate art collector with more than 300 pieces in his collection and, in 2021, he was a judge for the prestigious Turner Prize. Robert Diament is the director of the Carl Freedman Gallery and Counter Editions, a company that produces prints and multiples from leading contemporary artists. Prior to that, he was the frontman of a successful electropop band, Temposhark. 

Russell Tovey and Robert Diament. Twitter. talk ART book review
Russell Tovey and Robert Diament. Twitter.

Having looked at art for decades, Tovey and Diamend show an impressive amount of knowledge, which is shared generously and joyfully. We defy anyone to read this book and not finish it utterly convinced that art is a vital component of daily life.

For even more of the artsy discussion, you can also follow their official Instagram profile.

The Message

The message of the book is simple. Find your local museum or gallery spaces, and visit them. See as much as you can. Find an artwork you love. Don’t worry if it takes a while, just lean in, and trust your instincts. And our advice is this: if you are curious about art, if you like heartfelt and enthusiastic writing, or if you love sumptuous images, then read this book!

Photos of Russell Tovey and Robert Diament in talkART, Octopus Publishing, 2021. talk ART book review
Photos of Russell Tovey and Robert Diament in talkART, Octopus Publishing, 2021.

talkART was published in May 2021 by Ilex, an imprint of Octopus Publishing Group Ltd.


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Psst, Heard the Art World Gossip? Contemporary Art Really IS for Everyone! Talk ART Book Review was first posted on July 2, 2021 at 5:00 am.
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