Sweeping art history of the world to Bridge Street in six-figure pre-empt

Little, Brown imprint The Bridge Street Press has pre-empted for a six-figure sum world rights to Power, People and Painting: The Story of Art in Fifteen Cities by curator Caroline Campbell.

Holly Harley, commissioning editor, struck the deal with Jonathan Conway at the Jonathan Conway Literary Agency, with plans to publish the global art history in spring 2023.

Power, People and Painting aims to transform readers' understanding of the world by "unlocking the human stories behind millennia of art". The synopsis reads: "Taking readers from ancient Babylon to contemporary Pyongyang, each chapter is structured around a city at a particularly vibrant moment in its history, describing what propelled its creativity and innovation. By looking beyond the idea of the lone artistic genius and evoking the society artists lived as well as worked in, Caroline Campbell will showcase art’s ability to illuminate our lives, and inspire readers to benefit from its transformative and regenerative power."

Campbell is director of collections and research at the National Gallery in London. She was previously curator of paintings at the Courtauld Gallery and a curator at the Ashmolean Museum.

She said: "Art isn’t the tale of elites. It’s the history of ordinary people who were shaped by events and emotions as much as we are, yet rose above this to produce extraordinary objects that transcend time. My motivation is to write a history of art for our times. I want to explain the social, cultural and economic contexts within which artists have worked, and unlock the deep emotions and sense of human connection that great works of art – of every age — can give us."

Harley said: "Art history has an unfairly lofty reputation, when really – as Caroline's dazzling history will show – it is a window into the soul of a society. Power, People and Painting is going to be a beautiful book, full of vivid stories."