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‘Why buy a mere art book when you could have a museum of your own?’ [The Times review]

Phaidon editors, a beloved group specialising in the most beautiful art books, have now created the art book to end all art books.

The Art Museum is a collection of the world’s greatest pieces of art all under one ‘roof’. Its clever design involves the visitor selecting various galleries representing different eras in world history, each of which contains rooms, corridors and special exhibitions. It is an art- and history- lover’s dream.

The size of the thing is unbelievable. Larger than any book I have personally ever come across (its dimensions are 47.5 x 34.8 x 7.1 cm if that’s any help for you) its particular strength is its massive full page spreads which form its exhibitions – examples include the ara pacis and the terracotta army. However even the smaller pictures are beautifully represented on the page.

I have become a bit of an art lover over the past few years; an old boyfriend took me to the National Gallery to view his then favourite painting, the enormous Delaroche of the execution of Lady Jane Grey. Ever since then I love to visit the Gallery and view my old favourites: Turner’s Carthage & Ulysses deriding Polyphemus, the Solimena depicting Dido & Aeneas…I just like to check they’re still there and that they’re okay. I have also visited numerous exhibitions there and elsewhere and was even captivated by the just-about-to-finish Grayson Perry exhibition at the BM – unbelievably I have been swayed to the dark side of ‘modern art’.

This book has enabled me to view artworks which it is not possible to see together: the book can assemble collections without diplomatic problems, without the worry of cost…I know, it is difficult to imagine that viewing the artworks in a book can even come close to seeing them in real life, but it gets close. Of course the real thing is preferable, but this is not always possible! The size of the book is something that has to be experienced in person, and it really does contribute to the awesome sense of the artworks that you get from it.

I keep the book on the living room table, and when I walk by I almost ache to open the cover and view something I have never seen before. I can imagine it will take a while to view everything properly. If there is something specific I have in mind, well I can start by looking at the galleries themselves, but there is a wonderful index by artist and by location of the piece of art which is a fantastic addition.

It is by no means cheap: amazon has it at £80 which is about £50 off the rrp. But it is an experience – in what other museum can you view the Mona Lisa, then walk to another room and view one of Ai Weiwei’s installations? As I write, I am not at home…but now longing to be so as to marvel at something new.

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