counter What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in a Nutshell - Free Download Books
Hot Best Seller

What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in a Nutshell

Availability: Ready to download

In the tradition of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, art history with a sense of humor Every year, millions of museum and gallery visitors ponder the modern art on display and secretly ask themselves, "Is this art?" A former director at London's Tate Gallery and now the BBC arts editor, Will Gompertz made it his mission to bring modern art's exciting history alive for everyone, expla In the tradition of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, art history with a sense of humor Every year, millions of museum and gallery visitors ponder the modern art on display and secretly ask themselves, "Is this art?" A former director at London's Tate Gallery and now the BBC arts editor, Will Gompertz made it his mission to bring modern art's exciting history alive for everyone, explaining why an unmade bed or a pickled shark can be art—and why a five-year-old couldn't really do it. Rich with extraordinary tales and anecdotes, What Are You Looking At? entertains as it arms readers with the knowledge to truly understand and enjoy what it is they’re looking at.


Compare

In the tradition of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, art history with a sense of humor Every year, millions of museum and gallery visitors ponder the modern art on display and secretly ask themselves, "Is this art?" A former director at London's Tate Gallery and now the BBC arts editor, Will Gompertz made it his mission to bring modern art's exciting history alive for everyone, expla In the tradition of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, art history with a sense of humor Every year, millions of museum and gallery visitors ponder the modern art on display and secretly ask themselves, "Is this art?" A former director at London's Tate Gallery and now the BBC arts editor, Will Gompertz made it his mission to bring modern art's exciting history alive for everyone, explaining why an unmade bed or a pickled shark can be art—and why a five-year-old couldn't really do it. Rich with extraordinary tales and anecdotes, What Are You Looking At? entertains as it arms readers with the knowledge to truly understand and enjoy what it is they’re looking at.

30 review for What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in a Nutshell

  1. 5 out of 5

    Renée

    The Dutch title of the book is very different and had actually drawn me more towards the book then the English version: ´Dat kan mijn kleine zusje ook - Waarom moderne kunst kunst is´ hinting to the common view that much of modern, especially conceptual, art is a scam, something anyone could make or perform. Since I have had great trouble seeing the art in monocolored canvasses, pointless performances of dancing anorexics flinging about with dead animals, poo sculptures and many of the abstract The Dutch title of the book is very different and had actually drawn me more towards the book then the English version: ´Dat kan mijn kleine zusje ook - Waarom moderne kunst kunst is´ hinting to the common view that much of modern, especially conceptual, art is a scam, something anyone could make or perform. Since I have had great trouble seeing the art in monocolored canvasses, pointless performances of dancing anorexics flinging about with dead animals, poo sculptures and many of the abstract futuristic installations in public space, all supposed to elevate the minds of us unknowing creatures living unimaginative lives, unconscious of our desperate need to break free from our daily rut and look at the world from a different and fresh perspective, the Great Goal of all modern art, well, I thought I seriously needed to read a book about it and see if that could somehow make me see dancing anorexics from a different and fresh perspective. I am still struggling... Some thoughts: 1. I love Duchamp´s urinal as a strong and funny ´in your face´ note to the established art community. Point made. I admire Cézannes serious quest for portraying the world the way we actually see it. Everything after that made with the same or similar goals seems a mimic to me. 2. I understand from the book that the value of a piece of art is to be found in it´s wider e.g. historical context, so that a totally white canvas can be put in a minimalistic tradition and can be traced back to whatever, like Picasso or Monet and we can understand it better and value it more. Context does add meaning to art for me. But it does not validate millions of dollars to be paid for a couple of bricks or whatever they like to call art nowadays. 3. The type of art I find hardest to consider artistic, is sometimes put into context by Gompertz in such a way, as to actually confirm my notion of it being incomprehensible or ripe for the trash. They are made and promoted my megalomanics and psychotics such as Malewitsj, Mondriaan, Breton and Yves Klein. Artists should imo look at everything a bit differently than most of us, but allow us to see it their way at the same time. They can only shift our perspective by connecting to it, by guiding us onto a different path. They, neither the gallery owners and museum directors, cannot expect us to jump right to it. Without guidance, we are lost, missing the point, if there is one. Usually context helps to find this path, Gompertz did in some cases, especially with impressionism, expressionism and dada. In other cases, context made it even more ridiculous, like speculating about the meaning of a canvas with a cut in the middle, or describing the fucked up inner monologue of Mondriaan. 4. I have found my own criterium for art: If it can be considered art outside of a museum or gallery context, it is art. That makes anorexics jumping around with dead animals a bunch of idiots. 5. I have found my own criterium for good art: Good art is art that is worth money or/and interests people because they could not have thought of it and made it themselves. 6. No art is worth more moneywise than a couple of thousand dollars, unless the costs of materials exceed the price. Everything can be used for art and every art should be allowed to be exposed, but a white canvas should never be sold for more money than a Rembrandt. But hey, it was an entertaining read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Katia N

    I wanted to remind myself about the main visual art movements in the 20th century. And that fit the bill. It is very accessible and full of anecdotes, so easy to read. But it is more a survey and do not attempt more than that. I wanted to find out a bit more about philosophy of conceptual art. This is not the book for that. But it does touch upon the democratisation of art in the 20th century and a bit on Duchamp.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Viviane Crystal

    Here is a comprehensive, readable book for those ranging from art lovers who those looking at modern art and thinking, "I don't have a clue to what this is!" Beginning with a short overview of how art as investment increases for both living and dead artists, the author begins with the story of how Marcel Duchamp rocked the art world with his "Fountain," a urinal turned upside down with some drilled holes. The point? What do you see? The artist would say to keep looking and then the layers of mea Here is a comprehensive, readable book for those ranging from art lovers who those looking at modern art and thinking, "I don't have a clue to what this is!" Beginning with a short overview of how art as investment increases for both living and dead artists, the author begins with the story of how Marcel Duchamp rocked the art world with his "Fountain," a urinal turned upside down with some drilled holes. The point? What do you see? The artist would say to keep looking and then the layers of meaning may unfold for the viewer - or - perhaps it's just a urinal which elicits a variety of responses from the viewer. Is Gustave Courbet's "The Origin of the World" pornography or much more than its surface physicality? These flagrantly different conceptions are comic yet also a window into the world of contemplation and artistic creation that spans 150 years, that which is called "modern art." The text then covers multiple schools of art, beginning with pre-Impressionism and Impressionism which is much more than many viewers perceive of as "just dots" and really convey the first time artists wanted to paint outdoors, carefully watching how light and shade created beauty in nature's everyday scenes. It also describes how the artists of this period risked so much and even started their own schools to rival the prevailing "Academy" system, speaking for the passion of creativity that they felt deserved a larger, appreciative audience. So this story continues with coverage of Cezanne, Primitivism, Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, Suprematism, Constructivism, Neo-Plasticism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Conceptualism, Minimalism, Post-Modernism, and Art Now. Making art three-dimensional on a flat surface, variations of color expressing how one views reality with more vivid colors creating emotional appeal, art with two simple colors that viewed long enough brought the viewer's unconscious into the perception, and so much more. What Are You Looking At?... is a fascinating, intelligently written, very readable look into similarities, differences, and new concepts in the modern artistic world quite frequently seen at the Museum of Modern Art as well as other museums and galleries throughout the world. It's a must read for every person who wants to understand and appreciate great art! Superb and highly recommended!!!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    The author, Will Gompertz, is the BBC Arts editor and former director of London’s Tate Gallery. He takes us on a tour of modern art that is chronologically arranged, but focused on the question of what constitutes “art” and how that idea has unfolded over time. He includes a lot of fascinating gossip and background about the artists of the “modern” period, and very informative vignettes about how they influenced one another. The competitive Picasso, in particular, responded to the achievements of The author, Will Gompertz, is the BBC Arts editor and former director of London’s Tate Gallery. He takes us on a tour of modern art that is chronologically arranged, but focused on the question of what constitutes “art” and how that idea has unfolded over time. He includes a lot of fascinating gossip and background about the artists of the “modern” period, and very informative vignettes about how they influenced one another. The competitive Picasso, in particular, responded to the achievements of his artist friends first by being mesmerized by them, and then trying to better them. (And succeeding time after time!) The author shows quite clearly how each movement in Modern Art segued into the next, as the artists - often working together - tried to solve problems that arose, such as, for example, representing three-dimensional subjects on a two-dimensional canvas. What he writes of Braque and Picasso during the Cubist period could apply to other groups of artists as well: …they were like a pair of jazz musicians, improvising with all manner of material and riffing ideas off each other.” Even if you just go through the book to note the evolution of how artists defined art, you can get a sense of its general development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The concept of "what is art" changed from skill in exact representation, to getting to the "heart" of what was being seen, to excelling in design rather than illusory deception, to conveying concepts rather than materiality, to making an immediate and memorable connection with the viewer, to focusing on insight rather than sight, to prompting us to pay more attention to the everyday and the overlooked, to trying to create order out of chaos, to getting us to see that the viewer is as much a part of the work of art as the work itself. And what about art that is totally abstract? Just lines and squiggles and colors? Gompertz maintains: It’s a surprisingly tricky thing to pin down exactly what it is that makes those lines any different from the lines you or I might draw, but there is a difference. There is something about their fluidity, or composition, or shape that has millions of us flocking to modern art galleries to see abstract paintings by the likes of Mark Rothko and Wassily Kandinsky.” He explains how each generation of modern artists removed more and more traditional details in their paintings so as “to capture atmospheric light (Impressionism), accentuate the emotive qualities of color (Fauvism), or look at the subject from multiple viewpoints (Cubism).” Eventually, of course, the details were removed altogether. Artists came to see themselves as not in the business of “reproduction” at all, but rather of exploring new ways to represent truth “that might provoke previously untapped thoughts and feelings in the viewer.” My favorite chapter (that is, the one from which I learned the most) is the one dealing with Pop Art. My reactions themselves could have been transformed into a pop art canvas: “Wow!” And “I never thought of that!” And “How devilishly clever!” A recurring theme in the book is how advances in the other arts (especially music), the sciences, and even politics echo, reinforce, and reverberate with, changes in art. Sometimes abstract art is meant to be like music; sometimes it is meant to be like the mind; and sometimes, it is meant to suggest sociological commentary and/or change. And similarly, giants in the fields of music, psychology, science, and politics have been stimulated in their thinking by ideas they gleaned from artistic trailblazers. Laudably, Gompertz also lets us in on a rather disappointing fact about modern art. He writes: And yet, for all the rhetoric about creating new utopian societies and smashing the old elites, there has been one voice that has gone largely unheard. … Where, you might wonder, are the female artists?” He includes a section on the marginalization of women artists such as the great Freda Kahlo, while noting that this situation continues even today, in an art world still largely dominated by white men. Gompertz begins and ends the book with musings about Marcel Duchamp, the artist whom most contemporary artists cite as an influence, and whose seminal work “Fountain” is, according to the author, “the single most influential artwork created in the twentieth century.” The author concludes that whereas Picasso may have been the dominant force in the first half of the 20th century, “there is no question that the second half has increasingly been played out against a backdrop of Duchampian mind games.” Discussion: The subtitle of the book is “The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art,” and this is so apt. I must have said “who knew?!!!” at least twenty times while reading this. (Moreover, Jim’s occasional challenge of details in the book sent me off to google many times as well, finding not only that in every case that the author was indeed correct, but also thereby exposing me to even more fascinating bits about the item in question.) (FYI, the biggest question was about the feasibility of the production of 100 million porcelain individually hand-painted sunflower “seeds” by Chinese artist Wei-Wei and 1600 assistants, a brilliant exhibit as explained by Gompertz, but also one requiring that each artisan had to have produced 62,500 seeds. How did they do it and how long did it take? Read an interview with the artist, here.) Evaluation: Gompertz is excited and passionate about his subject. He wants us to love and appreciate art, and his enthusiasm is infectious. His prose is animated and entertaining. (In fact, this book was an outgrowth of the author's standup comedy show in the UK about modern art.) There are a gazillion fascinating and eye-opening (both literally and metaphorically) concepts presented. Since most of them have to do with visual communication, however, the book clearly would have benefited from more illustrations. Even the few full color plates included are so helpful that it’s a sin there aren’t more! It is not a book once can (or should!) scan or race through. Rather, I think it should be sampled and savored and contemplated, bit by bit. I could see it as a text [non-traditional in the sense that it is not academic in tone at all] for a delightful evening class on art that meets once a week, and during which we see many slides while discussing the salient points of each chapter. (And then we break for wine and cheese and fruit, artfully arranged on a tilting table….) Rating: 4/5 (I would have rated it higher had there been more illustrations, although in truth, there would have had to have been so many, it would have trebled the size and cost of the book. Maybe it would make a better online book, with hypertext links….?) Highly recommended!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Will Gompertz, arts editor of the BBC, takes us on a trip through modern art, and leaves us with both knowledge and a smile. No pompous artsy-fartsy fellow is Gompertz. No, instead he takes a light approach that is inviting, especially for those of us who came to the book without a lot of information about modern art. What movements does Gompertz share with us? Impressionism. Primitivism. Cubism. Dadaism. Surrealism. Pop Art. For me, this book was my first introduction to Futurism, Suprematism, Will Gompertz, arts editor of the BBC, takes us on a trip through modern art, and leaves us with both knowledge and a smile. No pompous artsy-fartsy fellow is Gompertz. No, instead he takes a light approach that is inviting, especially for those of us who came to the book without a lot of information about modern art. What movements does Gompertz share with us? Impressionism. Primitivism. Cubism. Dadaism. Surrealism. Pop Art. For me, this book was my first introduction to Futurism, Suprematism, Neo-Plasticism, Abstract Expressionism, and Conceptualism. What people does Gompertz share with us? Here is my list of my favorites: Monet, Manet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Seurat, Klimt, Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, Ernst, Magritte, Kahlo, Rothko. The writing was user-friendly. I wish there had been more photos of art (doesn't it seem obvious that a book about art should have lots of illustrations?)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carlex

    A book that explains in an entertaining and at the same time sufficiently exhaustive way the "mystery" of modern art. What more could you want? A book that explains in an entertaining and at the same time sufficiently exhaustive way the "mystery" of modern art. What more could you want?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    If you are curious about Modern Art, and seek an entertaining, amusing, and succinct introduction to the developments of the last 150 years then you should read What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in a Nutshell. Will Gompertz is the perfect guide. Playful and humorous whilst also wearing his considerable knowledge lightly. What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in a Nutshell reads more like a novel than a non fiction work. I learnt a lot whilst being entertained. What more c If you are curious about Modern Art, and seek an entertaining, amusing, and succinct introduction to the developments of the last 150 years then you should read What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in a Nutshell. Will Gompertz is the perfect guide. Playful and humorous whilst also wearing his considerable knowledge lightly. What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in a Nutshell reads more like a novel than a non fiction work. I learnt a lot whilst being entertained. What more can a reader ask for? Highly recommended 5/5

  8. 5 out of 5

    Petruccio Hambasket IV

    Basically a "Modern Art For Dummies" (like me). Entirely unpretentious in tone and form; I learned very much from this easy reading book. On the back cover it says that Gompertz is the world's first self proclaimed "art-history stand-up comedian". After reading that I thought that maybe this book would be too digressive, structurally disjointed, and perhaps even unlearned: which all seemed unappealing to me at the time, since I was looking to find a more comprehensive survey. My fears were extin Basically a "Modern Art For Dummies" (like me). Entirely unpretentious in tone and form; I learned very much from this easy reading book. On the back cover it says that Gompertz is the world's first self proclaimed "art-history stand-up comedian". After reading that I thought that maybe this book would be too digressive, structurally disjointed, and perhaps even unlearned: which all seemed unappealing to me at the time, since I was looking to find a more comprehensive survey. My fears were extinguished nearly from the start. Sure, Gompertz does use a casually jokey and light hearted approach in his writing, but it's not overdone, and he has a real knack for explaining concepts in a way that is extremely easy to understand. He readily acknowledges the fact that this is not an academic work of history and admits he could pull no such thing off. Even so, his approach to artists, movements, and certain unique incidents is always concisely presented and informative. He separates the movements chronologically by chapter, and his chapter progressions are tied in nicely with each other. For a book who's task is to talk about paintings it's obviously important to have pictures of the stuff your discussing included. Gompertz for the most part does this well. He includes 29 colour plates separated into its own corner of the book, these are the most important images he wishes to show. Other than this he occasionally sprinkles black and white figures throughout the pages if they're necessary to see or if their just too hard to describe verbally (and he does this quite a bit), for the rest of the time you're probably gonna have to hop back-and-forth between his descriptions and Google to get the full picture. Overall, a very enjoyable and informatively constructed introduction to Modern art (and even a little Contemporary) if you're in the market for such a book. If it didn't have as many jokes within I could see this being used a college textbook.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Leo Robertson

    Great light introduction to modern art. Compact and delivered with humour. A bit like a hundred or so pamphlets that you'd pick up at a museum, all weaved together. Given this ambition, don't expect too much depth: it's clearly aimed at laymen like myself who want to give their jaw the capacity to drop a few mm more during their next art gallery visit. On a different note: tell me these aren't art! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7ez-... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wn9lX... https://www.youtube.c Great light introduction to modern art. Compact and delivered with humour. A bit like a hundred or so pamphlets that you'd pick up at a museum, all weaved together. Given this ambition, don't expect too much depth: it's clearly aimed at laymen like myself who want to give their jaw the capacity to drop a few mm more during their next art gallery visit. On a different note: tell me these aren't art! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7ez-... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wn9lX... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-S0T... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXVHZ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUnVL... https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BX6T0zQCE... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-CFE... https://archive.org/details/ubu-abram...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mesia Loriana

    5 for the information, but 3 for trying to be funny

  11. 5 out of 5

    AM

    So many pieces of artwork are referenced in this book that I need to read it with Google to look them up. It would have been great if copies of them were included in the book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarthak Pranit

    I am an art novice. And, trust me, even that is an overstatement. Being educated since birth in the sciences as an Indian kid you often lose touch with that side of yours which could possibly be beyond equations. And the slowly murdering bitch that time is, I just let go a desire to even appreciate or bother myself with the question 'Is this art?'. After moving to Amsterdam, my inquisitiveness about art remained superficial despite having all of Europe's art at disposal to look at, contemplate, t I am an art novice. And, trust me, even that is an overstatement. Being educated since birth in the sciences as an Indian kid you often lose touch with that side of yours which could possibly be beyond equations. And the slowly murdering bitch that time is, I just let go a desire to even appreciate or bother myself with the question 'Is this art?'. After moving to Amsterdam, my inquisitiveness about art remained superficial despite having all of Europe's art at disposal to look at, contemplate, tilt head - left and right, think, diss/admire. But recently I went on a weekend trip with one of my friends who has had her education in the arts and has a passion for it. After a few discussions, I believe she realised that I want to learn about art, but I just didn't know where to start. As a result, she recommended me this book. And boy did she nail it. This book is like the art parallel of 'A short history of nearly everything' or 'Sapiens'. It's the 'summary about art' book we both deserve and need. But the reasons why I liked it were pretty personal....... as art is (whaaaaaaaaa). - It's actually funny. Art for me often used to conjure up images of men and women dressed in eye blinding white with wine glasses in all of their 13 hands whispering things to each other in a low voice as if they were cautious about spilling out the secrets of the greatest orgasm to basal folks like me. But this book took a new angle and tried to make the origin story available for the 'proletariat'. - It's chronologically sensible. This book starts with Marcel Duchamp and ends with Banksy. There is a timeline of reasoning that the author derives while meandering through the whole lot of Impressionism, Cubism, Minimalism, Post-modernism and the historical innovations hitching them together. - IT'S SENSIBLE. This perhaps is the biggest win of this book for me. It dejargonized art for me. The author literally combined history with art and made it fun for me. For this feat alone, a special place in heaven should be designed for the writer - that land slot beside the one Bill Bryson shall move into. For anyone who has deeply pondered over questions like 'Dafuq is that? Why is it art? What is art? Am I art? Is a tart art?', reading this book will involve a lot of 'Oh! That's why!' moments. So enjoy :)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anna Mezhova

    Loved it! Reads easily but it's actually very comprehensive and insightful. Can't say I'm converted, but I do understand contemporary art better after reading this. Loved it! Reads easily but it's actually very comprehensive and insightful. Can't say I'm converted, but I do understand contemporary art better after reading this.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dvora

    As far as I'm concerned, this started out much better than it ended. That goes for this book and for art movements of the last 100 years. I found it interesting his explanation of how Degas differed from the other impressionists. He did not work rapidly, he preferred the studio to plein air, and while the others were focused on ever-changing light, his focus was on the illusion of movement. He also was an outstanding draftsman, which the others were not. I knew that about this time, art dealers be As far as I'm concerned, this started out much better than it ended. That goes for this book and for art movements of the last 100 years. I found it interesting his explanation of how Degas differed from the other impressionists. He did not work rapidly, he preferred the studio to plein air, and while the others were focused on ever-changing light, his focus was on the illusion of movement. He also was an outstanding draftsman, which the others were not. I knew that about this time, art dealers began to become more important making the all-important salon less so for the sale of art works, but Gompertz explains this in more detail. Paul Durand-Ruel was key to the continued work of the impressionists and instrumental to the evolving role of art dealers and galleries. I read a lot about art history and artists, but I've never seen such a short and clear explanation of this change in the business of art. Gompertz gives a short biography of Vincent van Gogh and then tells about his work. I thought it unfortunate that within that very brief bio, he insisted on the myth that Vincent shot himself when Steven Naifeh and Gregory White's biography of Vincent made a very convincing argument for the fact that he was shot by someone else and that biography was published a year before this book. A good discussion of Cezanne where he makes clear how important he was and how much other artists valued him. I was disappointed to see that Gompertz left out Catalan (Spanish) art nouveau. He mentions France (Art Nouveau), Germany (Jugendstil), Austria (Vienna Secessionist). And Spain? Catalonia had an active decorative art movement called Modernism. There were painters, and more famously, there was the architect Antoni Gaudi whose Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell most people have heard of, even if Gompertz hasn't. I appreciated the observation about Matisse, "...his ability to make a simple mark on canvas that makes an immediate and memorable connection with the viewer elevates him from the good painter to the great artist. The balancing effect of his contrasting shapes, and the coherence of his compositions have been matched by very few artists in the history of painting." I won’t go into all the contemporary artists (of the last 50 or so years). Just Tracey Emin. Among other of her works, Gompertz talks about My Bed (pg. 382) and describes it as "just that: Tracey Emin's bed, unmade, and dishevelled with stained sheets. It was surrounded on the floor by the detritus of her life: empty bottles of booze, cigarette-ends and dirty underwear." He goes on to say that "Tracey Emin's unmade bed 'made' her. She became notorious, a love-to-hate character for the media, which she manipulated expertly, becoming very rich and very famous along the way." Thankfully, I never heard of her until now. On the back cover of my copy it says, in glowing affirmation of this book, that it "explains why Tracey Emin's unmade bed is a work of art, and why yours is not." I beg to differ. Mine is better because (1) I make my bed each morning, and (2) my dirty underwear is hidden away. In a very poor argument, Gompertz says that "a lot of people knock Tracey Emin, say she is a fraud. History will judge the quality of her art, but she is not a fraud. She has a first class degree from Maidstone College of Art and an MA from the Royal College of Art. Her work can be found in the collections of the world's most illustrious modern art museums (MoMA, Pompidou, Tate); etc. Well, la dee dah. How sad to resort to making your point by begging the question. The Impressionists had to hold their own exhibition because the establishment didn't like their work. Vincent van Gogh only managed to sell one painting in his lifetime. The art establishment can be wrong either way. The argument for Emin, with her art degrees and acceptance by the Tate doesn't prove a thing. What Gompertz has convinced me of is that art has become a commodity and the art establishment the center of a big business.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rupert Denton

    This is the book I've been waiting for. I have spent the last few years trying to self-educate on art and art history, secreted away in art-gallery bookstores poring over coffee table books, artists' biographies and compendiums on modern and contemporary art. I've been three valiant attempts at Gombrich's momentous work, The Story of Art, but Gompertz' book has been my breakthrough. He commands an extraordinary scope and breadth of knowledge beginning with the Impressionists and ending c. 2008 (w This is the book I've been waiting for. I have spent the last few years trying to self-educate on art and art history, secreted away in art-gallery bookstores poring over coffee table books, artists' biographies and compendiums on modern and contemporary art. I've been three valiant attempts at Gombrich's momentous work, The Story of Art, but Gompertz' book has been my breakthrough. He commands an extraordinary scope and breadth of knowledge beginning with the Impressionists and ending c. 2008 (with a movement he bravely terms, "entrepreneurialism"). All of this, mercifully, is transmitted without academic waffle but rather with clarity, humour and charm. Some of his discussions leave the reader feeling a little unsatisfied (Mondrian's neo-plasticity is just as incomprehensible to me as it was before he explained it) and a few of his other chapters are a little anti-climactic (the truncated section on the Futurists stands out here). However, this just opens up avenues for further exploration for the reader, equipped with a solid introduction and reference points. With the reasonable exception of Gauguin, Gompertz jumps to the defence of almost every artist and movement in the book. He should be applauded for this. Especially in the later chapters where the movements become increasingly abstract and the lay-reader's incredulity begins to rise he defuses this with aplomb. Overall, Gompertz' book is an excellent and absorbing discussion of the fantastic and fascinating world of modern and contemporary art.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    270615: well it is not necessarily five, this fits it on favoritenonfiction, but as general, intelligent, not hermetic, not specialist, introduction to art history of the modern era. so the appreciation is on the same level as intro philosophical texts: this makes you want to read on, want to see the works. and of course, there are the limitations of the media. two-dimensional visual art mostly, in small plates, small images, some art more recent being conceptual, performance, multimedia, sculpt 270615: well it is not necessarily five, this fits it on favoritenonfiction, but as general, intelligent, not hermetic, not specialist, introduction to art history of the modern era. so the appreciation is on the same level as intro philosophical texts: this makes you want to read on, want to see the works. and of course, there are the limitations of the media. two-dimensional visual art mostly, in small plates, small images, some art more recent being conceptual, performance, multimedia, sculpture, but this requires much description, much that shows the work of art is already in the best form to express itself, and prose description only shows what is lost. i happen to like abstract expressionists, pop art, minimalism- and mirrors, lots of mirrors. biased to english contemporary work. written in accessible terms, biographical focusing, rather than just ideas, becoming narrative linkage of 'the story of modern art'... maybe you have to already have read, seen, heard arguments, of the works and artists noted... encouraging, open, fun. but then my idea of 'fun' is four hundred pages of art history, so caution is advised...

  17. 5 out of 5

    吕不理

    Before reading this book, I’ve been to multiple art museums. Knowing almost nothing about religious stories makes me unable to appreciate those masterpieces in Louvre. Lack of systemic knowledge of art often confuses me when I’m staring at those seemingly strange or childish or, in my eyes, ugly, kind of art pieces. Most of the time I just wandered around and let myself expose to those paintings and devices. Sometimes I was overwhelmed but couldn’t tell why. But now I finally get to make more se Before reading this book, I’ve been to multiple art museums. Knowing almost nothing about religious stories makes me unable to appreciate those masterpieces in Louvre. Lack of systemic knowledge of art often confuses me when I’m staring at those seemingly strange or childish or, in my eyes, ugly, kind of art pieces. Most of the time I just wandered around and let myself expose to those paintings and devices. Sometimes I was overwhelmed but couldn’t tell why. But now I finally get to make more sense. So id like to say this is a great one for starter like me. I would definitely check out more serious references of modern and contemporary art.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anton Iokov

    The book has done its job brilliantly: it has spun my interest in modern art and encouraged me to dig deeper. Previously I felt utterly lost at modern art galleries, especially when choosing an exposition. Thanks to coherent and fun descriptions of art movements, I've discovered a few artists and genres to explore. I've already spent a few insightful hours at Lenbachhaus and New Tretyakov gallery and purchased a couple of books on the non-objective Russian avant-garde. This should be a fun adventu The book has done its job brilliantly: it has spun my interest in modern art and encouraged me to dig deeper. Previously I felt utterly lost at modern art galleries, especially when choosing an exposition. Thanks to coherent and fun descriptions of art movements, I've discovered a few artists and genres to explore. I've already spent a few insightful hours at Lenbachhaus and New Tretyakov gallery and purchased a couple of books on the non-objective Russian avant-garde. This should be a fun adventure :) P.S. The paperback format with only occasional pictures is as bad as the content is good. It forces you to resort to Google images search every 5 minutes. If only there was an edition with all the mentioned artworks illustrated... --- "In the seven years I worked at the Tate Gallery in London about six and a half were spent discussing possible exhibition titles. " "It is said that there is not enough art history to spread around all the art historians, which helps explain why those working in museums get so stuck in minute detail."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Maksym Popovych

    I should really write a longer review at some point because some things from the book really stood out for me. In short, I feel like it is an insightful book for someone who doesn't know much about history of art (like me). I really liked the parts on how this or that movement in art further influenced advertisement, industrial and home design, and more broadly our perception of a visually appealing thing. First half of the book (roughly until WWII) is somehow better organized, to my taste. The I should really write a longer review at some point because some things from the book really stood out for me. In short, I feel like it is an insightful book for someone who doesn't know much about history of art (like me). I really liked the parts on how this or that movement in art further influenced advertisement, industrial and home design, and more broadly our perception of a visually appealing thing. First half of the book (roughly until WWII) is somehow better organized, to my taste. The closer the book got to the 2000s, the more questions arose in my mind about the relevance/value of this or that piece of art/artist. I was left with an impression that the author struggled more with explaining art which came after postmodernism. He partly does acknowledge this himself explicitly in his attempt to find a suitable name for the art movement(s) since the 1990s.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Askorbinka

    I have visited wonderful museums of modern art. And if I was asked what I would change in my life if I could, I would definetely choose reading this book BEFORE going to MoMA and Stedelijk.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bry

    Atrt is quite possibly one of the most subjective topics there is. It affects, inspired, and disgusts equally and differently for everyone involved. But until the mid-1800's there were some generally accepted rules that artists followed - but since then that idea has been shot down utterly and completely by modern and contemporary art but not before completely offending and confusing the entire world. The trouble started for the Impressionists when they fell foul of Paris's all-powerful and s Atrt is quite possibly one of the most subjective topics there is. It affects, inspired, and disgusts equally and differently for everyone involved. But until the mid-1800's there were some generally accepted rules that artists followed - but since then that idea has been shot down utterly and completely by modern and contemporary art but not before completely offending and confusing the entire world. The trouble started for the Impressionists when they fell foul of Paris's all-powerful and stuffily bureaucratic Academie des Beaux Arts (the Academy). The Academy expected artists to make work based on mythology, religious iconography, history or classical antiquity in a style that idealized he subject. Such fakery didn't interest this group of young, ambitious painters. They wanted to leave their studios and go outside to document the modern world around them. It was a bold move. Artists didn't simply wander off and paint 'low' subjects such as ordinary people picnicing, or drinking or walking; it wasn't the done thing. It would be like Steven Spielberg hiring himself out for wedding videos. Artists were expected to stay in their studios and produce picturesque landscapes or heroic images of human forms that harked back in time. That was the great and the good demanded for the walls of their fine houses and the city's museums, and this is what they got. Until the impressionists came along, that is. This book is an attempt to explain modern art to anyone and everyone. It's not meant to be academic but approachable. And it has some fabulous passages that do just that. It educates and yet surprises. It turns modern assumptions about modern art on their heads while explaining why we made these assumptions in the first place. One of my favorite passages from the book that does just that is the following which discusses Impressionism... Within the context of modern art, the more traditionally minded consider. The Impressionists the last group to produce 'proper art.' They didn't go in for all that 'conceptual nonsense' and those 'abstract squiggles' that came later, but produced paintings that were clear, beautiful and refreshingly inoffensive. Actually, that's not quite right. As least, that's not what people thought at the time. The Impressionists were the most radical, rebellious, barricade-breaking, epoch-making group of artists in the entire history of art. They underwent personal hardship and professional ridicule in dogged pursuit of their artistic vision. They ripped up the rule book, metaphorically pulled their trousers down, and waved their collective derrières at the establishment before setting about instigating the global revolution we now call modern art. Many twentieth-century art movements, such as 1990's Brit Art, have been billed as subversive and anarchic, but in truth were far from it. The respectable looking twentieth-century Impressionist painters, on the other hand, were the original outlaws; they really were subversive and anarchical. Another fantastic part of this book is the connections reveals between different art styles as a result of modern and contemporary artists being influenced and inspired by those who have come before them. This book is also helping me to understand why I have liked these works all along anyways! For instance I have always enjoyed Edgar Degas's ballerina paintings and bronze sculptures as I danced for a large portion of my life. Whenever I would see one of these works or even a poster of a painting I would always be drawn to its edges, and basically try to peak under the frame or edges for the rest of the scene. I was desperate to know what was being hidden from me. What I was missing out on. You see Degas would severely crop his work taking the action all the way to the edge of the canvas and beyond even cutting dancers in half and hiding more outside the realm of the canvas. Turns out he was inspired to do this by Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints who exercised the same method. I had no idea this connection existed between Impressionism and Japanese woodblocks and love that art can be so universal.

  22. 5 out of 5

    megan-redwitch

    i cannot really express how much i enjoyed, and valued, this book. although i expect i was a leg up having been an art major i don't think he was anticipating my knowledge, the author describes almost every work and pictures are provided for many so it never felt like i ought-to-know a work. in addition even as someone with an arts background i felt this book did a good job of showing you the flow from one period to another, and best of all when they overlapped which was always something i strug i cannot really express how much i enjoyed, and valued, this book. although i expect i was a leg up having been an art major i don't think he was anticipating my knowledge, the author describes almost every work and pictures are provided for many so it never felt like i ought-to-know a work. in addition even as someone with an arts background i felt this book did a good job of showing you the flow from one period to another, and best of all when they overlapped which was always something i struggled with especially when so many things began cycling quickly as the end of the century. perhaps best of all i just like the tone the author uses. he obviously greatly enjoys art but adapts to explaining why in a way that is accessible and not arrogant - you get the idea that he does actually want you to feel that you know enough to enjoy to too, although he also addresses that that isn't a requirement either at least for most of these periods. lastly i really appreciated that he took a stab at the year's just prior to today - i could see his perspective and agreed with much of what he said. so many books just bow out when the -isms are no longer defined, just about when you really could perhaps use a little more guidance if you walk into a contemporary gallery! so i give a lot a credit for at least positing some ideas and describing the scene for the reader all the way up until "today" of his writing anyway. overall really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend to anyone wanting a wonderfully told overview of recent art history - art aficionado or just interested equally! : )

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tuck

    ah hell, i wrote up a very nice synop and gr ate it. but a fine fine look at modern art as gompertz is funny, can write clearly and tie things together well, things being friendships, money, critics, movements, philosophies, styles, . if you need one book of art history of last 150 years, this would be a great addition. btw some people really really hate gompertz and dis him like he's the worst boogie man ever to have had an opinion about art. not sure why some hate his guts so much, but i reall ah hell, i wrote up a very nice synop and gr ate it. but a fine fine look at modern art as gompertz is funny, can write clearly and tie things together well, things being friendships, money, critics, movements, philosophies, styles, . if you need one book of art history of last 150 years, this would be a great addition. btw some people really really hate gompertz and dis him like he's the worst boogie man ever to have had an opinion about art. not sure why some hate his guts so much, but i really enjoyed the book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Easily the most eye-opening book I’ve read since school. Plus, it’s actually entertaining and the writing is easy to digest. Modern art has always fascinated me, now that I better understand it, I love it even more.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    I'm really glad I read this book. It is slow at times, but it is fulfilling. I'm really glad I read this book. It is slow at times, but it is fulfilling.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rositsa

    Wonderful guide to modern art. Up there with Gombrich's classic in expertise, clarity and accessibility. Wonderful guide to modern art. Up there with Gombrich's classic in expertise, clarity and accessibility.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Emma Wright (A Cup Of Books)

    I have a review video dedicated to this book on my YT channel - https://youtu.be/T7gkb_tsMS0 I have a review video dedicated to this book on my YT channel - https://youtu.be/T7gkb_tsMS0

  28. 5 out of 5

    Yuan Guo

    It's impossible to understand the full art history of human in under 400 pages, especially the recent 150 years of chaotic explorations, statements, rebellious ideas, expressed through art, how the form of traditional art was being questioned, idea boundaries being pushed and critical problems of the society addressed. Going through the book is like a rollercoaster faster and crazier the closer it it coming to the present time. I didn't love the style of writing because of a lot of unnecessaril It's impossible to understand the full art history of human in under 400 pages, especially the recent 150 years of chaotic explorations, statements, rebellious ideas, expressed through art, how the form of traditional art was being questioned, idea boundaries being pushed and critical problems of the society addressed. Going through the book is like a rollercoaster faster and crazier the closer it it coming to the present time. I didn't love the style of writing because of a lot of unnecessarily obscure vocabulary and references. Still, it is somewhat falling short of explaining clearly a lot of pieces in their intentions, background and execution choices... Which I should not complain because it is already a pretty long and complicated book; as for the decipher of a lot of art work in this book - reviewing and commenting on art is a wildly subjective behavior, it's totally normal that I have a lot of different opinions regarding some of the perspectives the writer takes on some art pieces. That being said, it's still a very helpful book, I can see myself coming back to it a few times after finishing...but I would also need to keep looking into more accurate and systematic descriptions of art history to build on this one.

  29. 5 out of 5

    George

    But is it art? I read this book with the intent of gaining some basic familiarity with the major players and movements of art in the last century, and it certainly succeeded in that respect. I can now trace the line of artistic innovations that led from the Cubism of Picasso and Braque to the Minimalism of Judd and Andre, and am no longer completely perplexed by Damien Hirst's pickled animals (see his work The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living above) or Takashi Mur But is it art? I read this book with the intent of gaining some basic familiarity with the major players and movements of art in the last century, and it certainly succeeded in that respect. I can now trace the line of artistic innovations that led from the Cubism of Picasso and Braque to the Minimalism of Judd and Andre, and am no longer completely perplexed by Damien Hirst's pickled animals (see his work The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living above) or Takashi Murakami's statues of disconcertingly pornographic cartoon characters (actually, I'm still pretty weirded out by them.) Unfortunately, a bare-bones summary of modern art is all that What Are You Looking At? provides. Gompertz is mildly amusing and to be fair to him, does try to prevent his book from becoming too dull, occasionally incorporating interesting anecdotes from his career working at the Tate. But overall, the book comes across as a slightly hapless attempt by a man without experience writing about art history to try and convince hoi polloi that no, their five year old really couldn't do that (this is a point that recurs several times throughout the book.) But despite the book's faults, it does do a very good job of making an extremely abstract (pun intended) subject accessible, which is an achievement in itself. In the end though, you can do a lot worse when looking for an introduction to modern art. But I'm decently sure you can do a lot better too. 2/5 stars

  30. 5 out of 5

    Niels

    A funny, witty, anecdotal, but at the same time fantastic introduction to modern art. The best thing about it is that it lets readers appreciate art works based on the originality and ingenuity of the works in reaction to 'what came before'. A metro-like map is added to see how different art forms are influenced and how they flow into the next. This is essential and rewarding, in that - for me - it spills over to other cultural forms and beyond. For example, in 2018, many people find it difficul A funny, witty, anecdotal, but at the same time fantastic introduction to modern art. The best thing about it is that it lets readers appreciate art works based on the originality and ingenuity of the works in reaction to 'what came before'. A metro-like map is added to see how different art forms are influenced and how they flow into the next. This is essential and rewarding, in that - for me - it spills over to other cultural forms and beyond. For example, in 2018, many people find it difficult to appreciate movies, literature, or music from X years ago. The kind of argument that goes: if you've seen Avengers, why would you like Star Wars? This book shows that 'works of art' (in the broad definition) cannot and should not be judged on quality only, but also on ideas, on originality, on how disruptive the artist has broken with his own influences - or how much he/she has borrowed from others. Straight onto my recommendation list.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.