10 Coffee Table Books That Center and Celebrate Black Art and Artists

updated Oct 19, 2020
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Credit: Lindsay Adams

Coffee table books are by far my favorite home detail. What more can one ask for: Art, history, and beautiful pictures all in one? Yes, please! I’ve been collecting coffee table books since I started high school. When I’d visit museums, I’d get book souvenirs to take home. I was always drawn to books that highlight art, history, and creatives a lot, often seeking to find more books that highlighted Black culture and creativity. 

This year has come with many woes and uncertainties, but one of the most necessary outcomes has been the much-deserved  amplification and recognition of Black artists, storytellers, and creatives across different industries. The timing feels significant in many ways, too: 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Harlem Renaissance, and the most profound resurgence of creativity and synergy across our communities.

Credit: Lindsay Adams

As an artist, and lover of art history, I am always looking for ways to learn more and showcase Black excellence throughout my home. Here are ten coffee table books that celebrate Black art and artists.

“I Too Sing America” highlights multiple facets of the Harlem Renaissance, the artistic explosion centered in Harlem, New York, in the 1920s. If you want to learn about literature, art, music, and the social history of the era, this is definitely for you. 

Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic” by Connie H. Choi

“Kehindle Wiley: A New Republic” showcases the catalogue of Kehinde Wiley’s bold and powerful paintings, exploring the representation of Black people in art and challenging the status quo of classical painting. Wiley is celebrated for his unique portraiture, which often features baroque influence, and his reworking of  art history, proving him one of the most prominent Black artists of the 21st century. With each turn of the page, you will be captivated by the depth and journey of his art.  

“Brown Bohemians: Honoring the Light and Magic of Our Creative Community” by Morgan Ashley and Vanessa Coore Vernon 

Honoring creative people of color, “Brown Bohemians” showcases creatives across different mediums and studies, using the essence of storytelling to share the unique contributions of in fashion, lifestyle, and art. The minimal design and bold photography can nicely fit in any room in your home. 

Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives” by by Dana Canedy, Damien Cave, Darcy Eveleigh,  and Rachel L. Swarns

“Unseen” showcases unpublished photographs from the New York Times’ vault, and focuses specifically on never-before-seen images of the Black community by Times photographers. This book not only gives you a deep dive into scenes of the black experience, but also explores the stories behind them. The images include critical moments of Black history, showcasing joy, sorrow, and triumph. 

Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful” by Kwame Brathwaite

“Black is Beautiful” explores dynamic imagery of the Black community as captured by Kwame Brathwaite. His dynamic eye shows a lens that amplifies both the strength and softness of the subject. The book is filled with both black-and-white and color photography that shows Black people across the world, living and expressing themselves freely. 

Howardena Pindell: What Remains To Be Seen” by Naomi Beckwith and Valerie Cassel Oliver

Each page of this book explores the depth and deliberate approach of painter and artist Howardena Pindell across different mediums of art. Exploring her extraordinary career, this book captures a range of works by Pindell, ranging from canvas, photography, film, and performance art. 

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” edited by Mark Godfrey and Zoé Whitley

“Soul of a Nation” explores the art and expression of the Black experience that was created between 1963 and 1983. A time of political and social unrest, as well as radical world-building by visionary activists and community leaders, this book highlights previously ignored stories and experiences of 20th century Black artists. 

African American Women (Double Exposure),” by the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Volume 3 of “Double Exposure” highlights breathtaking imagery of Black women from all ages and backgrounds. A curation from the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s renowned collection, this book explores the serenity, beauty, strength, struggle, and sacrifice of Black women through rich photographs. 

Revelations: Art from the African American South,” edited by Timothy Anglin Burgard

“Revelations” explores the catalogue of self-taught Black artists born in the Jim Crow South. The unique interpretations and lenses preserve these artists artists’ hope and drive toward freedom in a time poisoned by rampant discrimination and social inequality. The beautiful and fearless use of color and texture is both moving and inspiring. 

“The New Black Vanguard” features powerful images of Black runway and cover models in the fashion industry, and explores Black imagery across media. This book is a deep dive into the intersection of art, fashion, and culture, and begins a necessary dialogue about Black representation across these spaces.