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Painting Today | by Tony Godfrey | Phaidon | 448 pages | $75

What makes this massive doorstopper great is 550 big pictures — a feast for the eyes of four decades of fine art from Henry Darger to Damien Hirst, Gerhard Richter to Neo Rauch, Elizabeth Peyton to Dana Schutz. It's a who's-who time capsule of the circuit of New York museums and international art fairs, biennials, and auctions. Godfrey's key insight: painting ain't dead because it remains at the top of the auction market.

Godfrey gives shout-outs to China and India, but his approach results in a pretty standard art-since-Warhol history of mostly Western, mostly white-guy painting. A third of the painters reside in New York. Just a quarter are women. So this leaves out feminists like Lynda Benglis, Miriam Schapiro, Judy Chicago, and Nancy Spero; African Americans Robert Colescott, Glenn Ligon, Faith Ringgold, and Barkley Hendricks; street art; Takashi Murakami and Japanese Pop; and Peter Saul, Raymond Pettibon, and all their Lowbrow progeny. One Bostonian— John Walker — makes the cut. Still after Phaidon's 2002 Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting (one of the last major survey tomes of this sort) made painting today seem all dried up, here's a book that does today's academy lush justice.

— Greg Cook

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