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This Is Modern Art [Paperback]

Matthew Collings
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 July 2000
Modern art today is a cow cut in half with a chainsaw, floating in a glass tank. A house cast in concrete. The London Underground map with all the station names changes - the Circle Line stations are comedians, the Northern Line stations are philosophers. A tent embroidered with the names of everyone the artist who set up the tent has ever slept with. But what does it all mean? What is Modern Art? Why do we like/hate it? Can anybody do it? Is it always modern? Who started it? In this refreshing and extremely accessible book Matthew Collings tells the story of modern art and our modern attitude to it. It combines hard information on major artists and movements - what really happened - with ordinary reflections: modern art is intimidating and unfathomable to many but Matthew Collings cuts through this barrier by asking all the kinds of questions many of us will have asked and been puzzled by. He will compare Goya to Duchamp and Picasso, Rothko to Yves Klein; he will look at the role of African tribal art in the rise of Modernism and Punk Rock in the rise of Post-Modernism. This will become a classic book of its kind, quirky, culty and great fun.

Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Dials (6 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841881007
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841881003
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 21.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 32,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Matthew Collings has already established a reputation for himself as one of the most irreverent and original commentators on the contemporary art world, with his books Blimey! From Bohemia to Britpop and It Hurts: New York Art from Warhol to Now. With the publication of This is Modern Art, Collings has ordered an even bigger canvas to sketch his own uniquely original version of contemporary art today, which he sees as both increasingly popular but also at different points "glamorous, mysterious, sexy, soulful, macabre, gloomy, quirky, kinky and funny". Written to accompany the television series of the same name, This is Modern Art is an in-your-face guide to modern art from Goya's "Disasters of War" to Gillian Wearing's prize-winning video of the police. Along the way, Collings addresses the questions which have both defined and plagued perplexed responses to modern art, including its desire to shock, its questionable aesthetic value, its humour and its blankness. As it moves along in a style which is at times infuriating but always direct and funny, This is Modern Art points out how far we've come since Picasso and Matisse, reverses out of the cul-de-sac of postmodernism, waves the flag for New British Artists like Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas, and ultimately leaves his audience with a streetwise, upbeat book on the abiding value of modern art. --Jerry Brotton

Book Description

An incredibly readable, funny, opinionated, idiosyncratic book which tells the story of modern art from Picasso to Damien Hirst - to tie-in with 6-part prime-slot Channel 4 series presented by Matthew Collings

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breezy and informal introduction to modern art 4 Dec 2002
Collings has a breezy writing style that exactly matches the way he talks on television during the Turner Prize or on one of his documentaries. It won't appeal to all readers, but if you've got a sense of humour about modern art (for example you found Craig-Martin's Oak Tree in the Tate Modern amusing), you'll definitely like this book. Collings isn't afraid to tell you that he doesn't really know what some pieces of art are about, or that he is only guessing. I've re-read this book several times, and I still enjoy it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something to get your teeth into 16 Jan 2008
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Collings' writing style will not be for everyone. He can be quite infuriatingly dense about some artists or concepts, and I found myself having to reread some sentences several times to see if it was 'just me'. It wasn't. On the other hand, most of the time he writes about art in a very accessible, and interesting way. His seems to be a fairly personal view, which is not going to suit anyone looking for an authoritative guide to art, but it is entertaining and thought provoking.
The paragraphs are quite clipped, and he just gets into his stride only to move to another subject or idea or artist, which when I was enjoying myself I found quite frustrating. I wanted more. This is not a particularly bad thing. I just found myself on Wikipedia a lot.
There are good illustrations, unlike some art books, and plenty of them. What could be a little challenging was him talking about paintings or works for which there were then no accompanying illustrations, which then sent me back to Wiki.
The potted history of the artists in the margins is a useful feature. I liked the way the book was broken up into manageable chapters and sub headings within chapters. The balance of prose to pictures was good. All in all a very satisfactory book given the dearth of affordable and useful books on what modern art actually is.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Idiosyncratic introduction to contemporary art 21 Feb 2008
Well-illustrated and easy to read but highly idiosyncratic and selective. Collings is good on those artists he knows personally or has interviewed for his TV shows but this is to the detriment of many important and influential artists who are ignored completely or mentioned only in passing. Highly recommended as an introduction to the field but please don't think this is definitive (let alone "the Bible") - I am sure Collings would make no such claims. And if you are in doubt as to which is the better, this or his other contribution "Blimey" I can reassure you this is the better by far.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Matthew Collings has a unique explanatory style that appeals to expert and novice alike. Experts admire his knowledge and skill in condensing down even the hardest subject into a nutshell. Newcomers to modern art like myself enjoy the way he manages to break modern art down into "laymen's terms". I now feel confident discussing the intricacies of Abstract Expressionism over the dinner table!
Informative without being patronising and always entertaining, Matthew Collings proves his writing is as delightful as his television programmes and public speaking. Buy this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
THIS IS MODERN ART. MATTHEW COLLINGS. No deconstructionist labyrinths; no art-historical jargon: just sensitive reflective reactions to the unique derivative (my comma key does not function) annoying inspirational web which unites Picasso to Pollock and Klimt to Koons. Beautfully produced; profusely illustrated; meaty; weighty; yet fun.
If you're an art fanatic you'll treasure it and keep it by the bed; if you're not you'll soon become one.
Buy now.
By the way: I bumped into Collings in Cork Street and he's a very polite and pleasant man.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate guide to modern art. 7 May 2000
By A Customer
Matthew Collings is the ultimate guide to Modern Art. His critical approach is refreshingly unpretentious and he trawls through his baffling world of pickled cows and wobbling buttocks with a quirky observational wit which interests and engages. Us lost children are led through art history with the authority, wisdom and yet tenderness of a favorite teacher. I emerged from this book thoroughly educated; thanks Matthew Collings. You're really cool!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Art Students New Bible 26 Jun 2001
This is without doubt the best book on Modern Art available. Making the long-winded flowery drivel of the majority of art writers seem redundant, Collings has tapped into the current mind-set of the majority of young artists and provided an accessible but inteligent view of modern art. Collings vast knowledge and passion for his subject is reflected in the flippant way he can discuss it and his ability to see the 'highbrow' and 'lowbrow' on equal terms raises him head and shoulders above anyone else. A must read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I was so exhilarated by Collings' Channel 4 mini-series "This is civilisation" that I had to search the web to find something similar in book form. Read more
Published on 18 Mar 2008 by x iLeon
5.0 out of 5 stars Explaining how great the Master Collings is
Reading this book was a really refreshing experience. Matthew Collings must be one of the only art critics in all history who A: Knows something about art and B: Doesn't talk... Read more
Published on 29 Dec 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars i really enjoyed flicking through this one!
perfect for an night in with a cup of cocoa. This is the ultimate read for the modern art lover.Plenty of clear images, Matthew Collings gives an insightful, and easy to understand... Read more
Published on 6 Dec 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Fresh and Funky v's Pretentious and Frustrating
This book is about Matthew Collins as much as it is about Modern Art. His affected, dramatic writing dominates the book in what I, in my more subdued moods would call playful and... Read more
Published on 26 Sep 2001 by
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Book!
If you loved Blimey! then this book is even better, offering an excellent overview of the world of Modern Art. Read more
Published on 2 Dec 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars This book should win a Turner Prize
I think Matthew Collings in fantastic. Modern art's manifesto has mythologised the role of the artist and Collings de-mythologises the artist, but in a way that allows you to... Read more
Published on 11 July 1999
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