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

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

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by Will Gompertz
     
 

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Channeling Bill Bryson’s engaging style, a former director of London’s Tate gallery wields his wit and expertise in this smart, entertaining narrative tour of modern art.

We all know what modern art looks like. We’ve seen Monet’s water lilies, we’ve admired Picasso’s nudes, and we’ve gawked at Damien Hirst’s

Overview

Channeling Bill Bryson’s engaging style, a former director of London’s Tate gallery wields his wit and expertise in this smart, entertaining narrative tour of modern art.

We all know what modern art looks like. We’ve seen Monet’s water lilies, we’ve admired Picasso’s nudes, and we’ve gawked at Damien Hirst’s shark, as well as the price tag. But what does it all mean? What is modern art? Who started it? Why do we love and/or hate it? And why is it such big money? What Are You Looking At? takes readers on a captivating tour of modern art from impressionism to the present day, telling the story of the movements, the artists, and the works that not only changed art forever but also helped create and define the modern world.

Refreshingly irreverent yet eminently readable and informative, the book is rich with extraordinary tales and anecdotes—a morning coffee in Paris with Monet and the impressionists; Marcel Duchamp purchasing his famous urinal; Sir Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate empire, confessing his terror at not knowing what to think each time he encounters a new work of art.

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.

Editorial Reviews

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.
From the Publisher
“Gompertz has an uncanny knack for making difficult art (and ideas) easy…A lively, witty account of the major moments and movements of the past 150 years.”–Associated Press
“An insightful love letter to modern art and an irreverent rejection of the notion that its pleasures are reserved for a chosen few… Each [chapter] hums with engaging history and entertaining anecdotes, cheeky asides and accessible, illuminating criticism.” –NPR
“Gompertz is determined to dispel the layman's fear of the modern art world and those who inhabit it. What Are You Looking At?, which comes out this week, does a very good job of this—replacing isolating esotericism with witty and chatty commentary.” –Interview  
“A deeply enlightening and buoyant history of modern art and beyond.” –Booklist (starred review)
“[A] highly lucid, lively, and buoyantly composed history…while his tone is breezy and conversational, [Gompertz] astutely and often wittily describes the core of every movement and its key artists.” –Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780525952671
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
10/25/2012
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 9.34(h) x 1.27(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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From the Publisher

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 “Gompertz has an uncanny knack for making difficult art (and ideas) easy…A lively, witty account of the major moments and movements of the past 150 years.”
–Associated Press

“An insightful love letter to modern art and an irreverent rejection of the notion that its pleasures are reserved for a chosen few… Each [chapter] hums with engaging history and entertaining anecdotes, cheeky asides and accessible, illuminating criticism.”
–NPR

“Gompertz is determined to dispel the layman's fear of the modern art world and those who inhabit it. What Are You Looking At?, which comes out this week, does a very good job of this—replacing isolating esotericism with witty and chatty commentary.”
–Interview

“A deeply enlightening and buoyant history of modern art and beyond.”
–Booklist (starred review)

“[A] highly lucid, lively, and buoyantly composed history…while his tone is breezy and conversational, [Gompertz] astutely and often wittily describes the core of every movement and its key artists.”
–Publishers Weekly
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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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What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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