Customer Reviews for

The Art Museum

Average Rating 2.5
( 8 )
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  • Posted November 19, 2011

    ambitious idea, execution lacking

    I rarely buy books anymore. I figure the public library can hook me up for free and has a lot more storage space than I do. But the combination of savvy marketing by Phaidon, a recent one-day, 50%-off sale at, and $75 of BN credit sitting in my wallet brought this beast into my possession this week. I was totally taken in by the scope of the project. Who wouldn¿t after reading this:

    ¿It is the most comprehensive and visually spectacular history of world art ever published. Ten years in the making, this unique book was created with a global team of 100 specialists in art history, who have collected together important works as they might be displayed in the ideal museum for the art lover.¿

    Now that I have it though, I'm thinking of returning it. It is humongous, I mean seriously mammoth, and very heavy, I¿m not even sure where to put it. The paper is pretty thin so it¿s not one for the kids to look at alone. I imagined many hours of pouring through it together, but it's not easy to leaf through because of its size, and again, I think it could be easily torn. My kids love Janson¿s (much less) huge History of Art, and The Art Musuem has more range, more pictures, bigger pictures, but it's unwieldy. Also, because so much is packed in--1000 years of art, many mediums, spanning the globe--it is a very brief treatment for each section. For instance, impressionism is covered in 12 pages, minimalism another 12. In addition, though the picture quality and color is okay, I expected to be more impressed by it. As an odd side-note, the book emits an unpleasant chemical smell, I assume from the printing process. The text is also incredibly sparse, pretty much just identifying the works and giving very brief descriptions of movements.

    As I¿m sure is inevitable with any project of this scale, there are idiosyncratic choices of who and what to cover and how much. In photography there is one small Ansel Adams mixed in with 4 others on a page, followed by an entire page, with 3 pictures, by Cindy Sherman (kudos to Sherman, she is wonderful). Photography in general gets short shrift. Absent are Edward Weston, Helen Levitt, Imogen Cunningham, Paul Caponigro. Hiroshi Sugimoto gets a nod, but unfortunately it¿s one of his Theatres pics, rather than one of the more spectacular Seascapes.

    The Art Museum fits the bill as a comprehensive survey, displaying great works throughout time and inspiring ideas of what to explore in more detail elsewhere. With the first flip through I learned of artists and movements I'd never heard of before and was intrigued by, but I'm thinking it might be better left to the libraries. I wish I could give it a better review, because I think it's a worthy idea, but an idea better suited to a computer program, website, or app, because the medium of the book cannot hold the scope of this project.

    As I see it, art books should serve at least one of two purposes: 1) High quality reproductions of beautiful art, and/or 2) A solid, durable, user-friendly reference work. Unfortunately, ¿The Art Museum¿ fulfills neither. The reproductions are too poor for the former, and the physical object of the book is too fragile and unwieldy for the latter. It¿s an ambitious (and exciting idea), but I suspect that the scope of ¿human art¿ is too broad for a single work.

    12 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Beautiful Book Cumbersome Size

    I wish this book were available as an e-book. It has excellent pictures and content, but it is oversized and heavy and has fine print. I plan to return it because I cannot hold it comfortably and need a magnifying glass to read it. I would enjoy viewing it on a computer.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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