What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art

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Overview

For skeptics, art lovers, and the millions of us who visit art galleries every year—and are confused—What Are You Looking At? by former director of London’s Tate Gallery Will Gompertz is a wonderfully lively, accessible narrative history of Modern Art, from Impressionism to the present day.

What is modern art? Who started it? Why do we either love it or loathe it? And why is it such big money? Join BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz on a dazzling ...

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What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art

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Overview

For skeptics, art lovers, and the millions of us who visit art galleries every year—and are confused—What Are You Looking At? by former director of London’s Tate Gallery Will Gompertz is a wonderfully lively, accessible narrative history of Modern Art, from Impressionism to the present day.

What is modern art? Who started it? Why do we either love it or loathe it? And why is it such big money? Join BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz on a dazzling tour that will change the way you look at modern art forever. From Monet's water lilies to Van Gogh's sunflowers, from Warhol's soup cans to Hirst's pickled shark, hear the stories behind the masterpieces, meet the artists as they really were, and discover the real point of modern art.

You will learn: not all conceptual art is bollocks; Picasso is king (but Cézanne is better); Pollock is no drip; Dali painted with his moustache; a urinal changed the course of art; why your 5-year-old really couldn't do it. Refreshing, irreverent and always straightforward, What Are You Looking At? cuts through the pretentious art speak and asks all the basic questions that you were too afraid to ask. Your next trip to the art gallery is going to be a little less intimidating and a lot more interesting.

With his offbeat humor, down-to-earth storytelling, and flair for odd details that spark insights, Will Gompertz is the perfect tour guide for modern art. His book doesn’t tell us if a work of art is good; it gives us the knowledge to decide for ourselves.

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  • What Are You Looking At?
    What Are You Looking At?  

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

As the former director of Tate Media and as the present BBC arts editor, Will Gomperz has justified an early description of him as "a complete maverick and an eccentric." He was also gained an enviable reputation for communicating about modern art in refreshing ways. His hip sensation 2009 Edinburgh Festival Fringe piece "Double Art History" served as a preview of this energetic recap of the subject, but What Are You Looking At? succeeds at being more free ranging, informative, and, believe it or not, provocative than that original. The art history teacher you always wish you had. Now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

Library Journal
Gompertz (former director, Tate Gallery, London; arts editor, BBC) offers an accessible introduction to the often bewildering field of modern art. Given his stated intent to cut through the opaque language and pretensions of an elitist art world, readers might expect Gompertz to treat the avant-garde and its often inscrutable provocations with a degree of skepticism. Instead, his analysis is almost entirely sympathetic as he briskly moves from the mid-19th-century France of Manet and the impressionists to the early-20th-century New York City of emigré Marcel Duchamp and then to the present-day England of Damien Hirst and the Young British Artists. Rather than hold up older contemporary art as distinct from or preferable to the art of today, Gompertz attempts to forge lines of continuity that allow readers to connect celebrated moments in art history to what they encounter in contemporary art galleries. VERDICT While its cast of characters may already be familiar to students of art history, Gompertz's book will appeal to many for its wit, engaging prose, and often highly amusing anecdotes. [See Prepub Alert, 5/15/12.]—Jonathan Patkowski, CUNY Graduate Ctr.
Library Journal
Few of us would have the nerve to do a stand-up show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. But BBC arts editor Gompertz does, appearing there in 2009 in a one-man piece called Double Art History, styling himself as a substitute art teacher explaining modern art. That show, a sell-out, bodes well for his new book, which covers the artists, movements, and signal works of modern art while asking some unpretentious questions, e.g., why do we instinctively love or hate it? Former director of Tate Media (as in the wonderful Tate Britain and its wild sister, the Tate Modern) and named one of the world's top 50 creative thinkers by Creativity magazine, Gompertz apparently has an eye for the telling anecdote. A great art history lesson.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525952671
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/25/2012
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 788,986
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 1.27 (d)

Meet the Author

WILL GOMPERTZ was a director at the Tate in London for seven years and is now the BBC arts editor, where he writes, presents, and produces programs about the arts. In the summer of 2009, he wrote and performed a one-man show at the Edinburgh Fringe called Double Art History, a light-hearted lecture on the story of modern art. Recently named one of the world’s top fifty creative thinkers by Creativity magazine, he lives in Oxford.

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