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Contemporary Art: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Kindle Edition]

Julian Stallabrass
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Contemporary art has never been so popular - but what is 'contemporary' about contemporary art? What is its role today, and who is controlling its future?

Bloody toy soldiers, gilded shopping carts, and embroidered tents. Contemporary art is supposed to be a realm of freedom where artists shock, break taboos, flout generally received ideas, and switch between confronting viewers with works of great emotional profundity and jaw-dropping triviality. But away from shock tactics in the gallery, there are many unanswered questions. Who is really running the art world? What effect has America's growing political and cultural dominance had on art?

Julian Stallabrass takes us inside the international art world to answer these and other controversial questions, and to argue that behind contemporary art's variety and apparent unpredictability lies a grim uniformity. Its mysteries are all too easily explained, its depths much shallower than they seem. Contemporary art seeks to bamboozle its viewers while being the willing slave of business and government. This book is your antidote and will change the way you see contemporary art.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Product Description


'by far the most strident and polemic entry I've yet come across in Oxford's excellent series of "very short introductions"' (Laurence Phelan, Independent on Sunda)

Independent on Sunday, 23 April 2006

'by far the most strident and polemic entry I've yet come across in Oxford's excellent series of Very Short Introductions.'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 30429 KB
  • Print Length: 172 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0192806467
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (23 Mar. 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000SFH6DG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #122,498 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating But Not For Beginners 10 Jan. 2008
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
I think this book is brilliant, yet I am not 100% sure why it is in the Very Short Introduction series. It isn't really an introduction to contemporary art. If you don't know much about art, and you don't know much about contemporary artists, you aren't going to be very much the wiser after reading this book, at least at a basic level. It deals only sketchily with the work of artists, using them to illustrate points rather than to tell you much about them or the artists themselves. It doesn't really set out to tell you what art is either, in any easily identifiable way.
Having said that, it gets five stars in my book because it illustrates a fascinating view of art that I have never really been aware of before. Stallabras talks about contemporary art in relation to world politics, commerce, consumerism and the worlds of big business and finance. He talks about how art has changed and been shaped by the demands that these external pressure points have put upon it, and what that means for the way we 'read' art and art works. He talks about how it affects our understanding of where art fits in the current world order and what that means for artists.
It is an incredibly interesting book, from which I have learned a great deal. It really made me think and made me look at things like how exhibitions are staged and what museums are for in a radically different light. It is well worth the money and the time to read it, but you do have to have some prior knowledge of art beforehand to get the best out of it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By BvdR
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As other reviewers have already pointed out, this book is not in any way a "very short introduction" to contemporary art. Nevertheless, others have given the book a pretty high appreciation on the grounds that it offers an interesting perspective, and, (I cite one of the reviews) it tackles all the main issues "in a clear and easy to understand manner".

It doesn't. I struggled with Stallabras's writing style, which obfuscates rather than clarifies. As a text, it is squarely aimed at those already familiar with contemportary art writing, including the jargon and key underpinning perspectives. The reader who doesn't have that background is left scratching his head while wading through paragraph after paragraph of a highly convoluted writing style that offers very little in the way of an analytical framework or even attempt to shine a light on the nature of contemporary art. Instead, the book is a series of connected essays that describe market forces and political developments and ideologies as they influence art, and commentary on contemporary art critics and academics and their perspectives, and how these in turn influence contemporary art.

I take the view that a book should be assessed based on what it sets out to achieve, and wouldn't want to judge it against a set of criteria that were not part of the writing brief. Reading OUP's overall brief ("These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors [...] make interesting and challenging topics highly readable"), I can only conclude that this booklet has failed spectacularly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An excellent essay on ConArt 16 Aug. 2013
The Very Short Introduction series are written by professors of the subject and are aimed at provoking cross-discipline intrigue in the reader that may incite further investigation and reading - and boy, are they good at achieving exactly that; often they leave more questions than answers.

Contemporary art details examples of outrageous or intriguing but always thought-provoking pieces of art. It details the main themes in these works and how to interpret the artist's objectives. It also has a much larger macro-side to the book as it looks as art's intrinsic value and how it is received by the marketplace. Delving further reveals the globalisation and even mass production of art and how this affects it's value. Finally rounding off with the contradiction in the art world that have shaped the state of affairs today.

Whilst this is a well argued, informative and well referenced book, I really did not feel that this was much of an introduction, it deals with some pretty advanced themes and a lot of the artists I had literally never heard about before their mentioning, so when author Stallabrass says something is similar to someone else's styling, I often had to look them up for comparison basis. I am no art scholar, but I thought the introduction would have accounted for that, it is actually a lot more high-brow than a run-down for the layman. Whilst this isn't inherently a problem, it did make this pretty heavy going at some points. Cautiously recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a short introduction to Contemporary Art 9 Aug. 2013
By Ami S
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was expecting this book to provide a well rounded introduction and analysis of what contemporary art is but instead I found this book to be about the global market's relationship to contemporary art. It has a very misleading title and I strongly believe it doesn't belong in the Very Short Introduction series.

I found that it is actually an essay titled Art Incorporated which fits it much better.

Overall it was still an interesting read but not what I was looking for or needed for my degree
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliant and prom
Published 9 months ago by Karen Brackpool
5.0 out of 5 stars Ways of Seeing for the Contemporary Eye
Stallabrass is a good writer. He has spent a lot of time meditating on contemporary art and, by the evidence of this book, has come to the conclusion that much of it is vacuous... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jasonín d'Asturies
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Nice little book. Got it as was on the list for art and design foundation course but surprisingly enjoyed reading it all before I got to the University.
Published 11 months ago by Stuart Champion
3.0 out of 5 stars There were a few too many obvious points about the ...
There were a few too many obvious points about the global economy some of the information did not fit with the title an introduction to contemporary art.
Published 12 months ago by cartesian
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you
This one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time. Don't be put off by comments that it is difficult. If you're interested you'll be well-rewarded.
Published 14 months ago by Prospecta
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable!
Excellent book... succinct, witty, informative. Julian Stallabrass excels as always and reduces the whole shebang to the size of a nutshell... hoorah!
Published on 15 Feb. 2013 by Penny Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Stallabrass
Great book.. Bought it for my daughter's christams present. She loved it - a short book and well written. Great for finding basic concepts
Published on 12 Jan. 2013 by Peter
5.0 out of 5 stars Does what it says.
An Interesting view of the world of art any of these short introductions
are worth a read and pretty good for the student.
Published on 10 Sept. 2012 by GA
5.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary Art in a nut shell
Contemporary Art in a nut shell, with all the main issues tackled in a clear and easy to understand manner. Provides many useful ideas and quotes about art in a global market. Read more
Published on 22 July 2011 by Art21
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