Skip to content


The Best Art Books of 2021

December 17, 2021

Joseph E. Yoakum: What I Saw Exhibition Catalogue

"Joseph E. Yoakum: What I Saw" Photo: Museum of Modern Art

By the Editors of ARTnews 

With travel restrictions still in place, many looked to art books this year when they couldn’t visit the museums and galleries they loved most. Below is a look back at some of the year’s best books, as picked by the editors of ARTnews and Art in America, from elegant catalogues that paired nicely with the year’s finest shows to forward-thinking tomes of criticism that drew out new strands of art history.

Joseph E. Yoakum: What I Saw Edited by Mark Pascale, Esther Adler, and Edouard Kopp (Yale University Press)

Self-taught artist Joseph Elmer Yoakum (1891–1972) was “discovered” by the mainstream art world in the last decade of his life, when he began hanging his drawings in the window of his storefront apartment in Chicago.


Mostly stylized landscapes depicting places possibly visited in reality—he claimed to have traveled with a circus in his youth—or perhaps only in his imagination, their undulating forms and vigorous patterning offer a delirious take on the notion of the sublime in nature.Yoakum’s work was first championed by School of the Art Institute of Chicago professor Whitney Halstead and later by the Chicago Imagists, a group of artists that included Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Karl Wirsum, and Roger Brown. This elegant monograph, which includes an essay by Halstead, accompanies a traveling exhibition of Yoakum’s work currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art. - Anne Doran

Back To Top