One can never go wrong with having a solid art survey on the book shelf. Published by Yale University Press and edited by Chris Stephens (this volume) and David Bindman (in total), The History of British Art covers a serious swath of artistic movement and canonical painters. Picking just one has obvious pitfalls, the full story is always great, but that said Volume 3: 1870-Now gives the basics on the complex role of art and artists in the history of Modern Britain. Plus, if contemporary is your thing, the story should allow some understanding of how we’ve arrived where we are now in the art world.
Available now from Amazon.