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THE bookies’ favourite for the Turner Prize from an all-male shortlist, to be presented on December 9 by Madonna, is the genial Isaac Julien whose multi-screen installation piece on sensuality, “a meditation on masculinity and desire” uses cowboy imagery and allusions to the Hockney swimming pool paintings. Elsewhere in the Turner Prize 2001 exhibition at Tate Britain nominees have, regretfully, largely avoided the outrageous, unless you count Martin Creed’s boring empty room which turns from light to dark every five seconds, and is called The lights going on and off. But then maybe nothing can be really outrageous ever again...

These two well-documented, argumentative books are a very entertaining read on the subject of art in the headlines seen by the media as having instant shock value. In Art and Outrage the author covers the period from the late 1940s to the 1990s and gives the first detailed survey of the most prominent art that scandalised... Marcus Harvey’s Myra Hindley’s portrait, Rick Gibson’s foetus earrings and Anthony Noel-Kelly’s cast body-parts sculptures.

John Walker is Reader in Art and Design History at Middlesex University and argues both for and against radical contemporary art. Much of this book is very droll. Take the 1971 Catfish Controversy, when Spike Milligan broke a glass panel in the entrance door of the Hayward Gallery as a protest against the planned electrocution of catfish by the American artist Newton Harrison as part of an art exhibition. This caused Su Braden, art critic of Time Out to lambast Milligan for his confusion and narrowmindedness, arguing that cruelty to fish was no worse than that inflicted by fishermen and fishmongers, saying to Milligan: “How many fishmongers’ windows have you broken today?”

Art in the Age of the Mass Media asks whether radical art can still play a part in today’s world using as his text the socialist paintings of Courbet to the anti-Nazi photomontages of Heartfield and the provocatively shocking BritArt explosions of the 1990s. Essential reading in the long-may-it-live debate against high art and low culture, these two books are certainly on this subversive’s Christmas list.