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What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye Hardcover – 6 Sep 2012


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (6 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670920495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670920495
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.1 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 20,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Will Gompertz is the best teacher you never had (Guardian)

He is a natural communicator whose passion for art is expressed with wit and verve (Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate, on Will Gompertz)

Robert Hughes's The Shock of the New redone à la Bill Bryson ... few are the histories of modern art that name check Beyonce, David Foster Wallace and Susan Boyle, describe the saturnine Paul Cezanne as the 'Cool Hand Luke of the Parisian avant garde' ... Filter (s) out all jargon and pretension and filter (s) in plenty of fun ... A richly detailed and highly entertaining history from Delacroix to Damien Hirst **** (Telegraph)

Gompertz flicks through a mental Rolodex of the world's most famous images and describes them with a freshness and vividity that brings them to life (The Times)

Gompertz writes about difficult things - the birth of conceptualism, the link between the pyramidal compositions of Géricault's Raft of the Medusa and Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People - without letting on that they are difficult ... this romp through art from the 1860s to now is both hugely accessible and old-fashionedly educative (Independent on Sunday)

A lively train-ride through the art movements of the modern period ...While he doesn't dumb down the subject, he does take a fresh, energetic approach ... He explains movements and "isms" with clarity and humour (Scotsman)

Gompertz has written an energetic and comprehensive romp through modern art (Independent)

Will Gompertz is a natural communicator whose passion for art is expressed with wit and verve (Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate Gallery)

About 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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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Chris Pearson VINE VOICE on 25 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've never really `got' modern art. It's always been too abstract, too `out there' or just appeared to appeal to art snobs - those who wish to appear in `the know'.

Gompertz writes an interesting perspective that made me think about much of it, re-evaluate my views, and also re-inforced my view that some of it is still rubbish.

But it's an excursion that is well worth taking, my appreciation is much greater and Gompertz is a good guide.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Craddock Edwards from Bristol VINE VOICE on 3 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Irrespective of my views on Modern Art and whether or not I agree with the author's point of view I have to give this book five stars for the total mastery of the subject and the ability to keep the narrative flowing in a straightforward and humorous way. Will Gompertz is one of a rare species who is an an absolute master of his chosen field but does not take himself too seriously. Might help he has done a stand-up comedian's act about Modern Art, in fact with some of the stuff he has to review and write about - I'm sure a stand-up comedian's attitude is a big plus.

The book, some 450 pages, takes us on a fairly chronological journey through the world of Modern Art starting with the Pre-Impressionists up to multi million pound selling articles ( I cannot bring myself to call all of them 'works of art') that have been through the salerooms in recent years.

Art, especially what is loosely termed Modern Art means different things to different people, I have a very simple rule which applies to all Art including music - do I like it? I love Dali, like some Picasso, have several reasonable (ie affordable) Brazilian Abstracts on my dining room walls, find early Soviet Art and some later Soviet 'Propaganda' works interesting, love posters especially from the Spanish Civil War and have a passion for some of the psychedelic work of the 1960's & 70's, especially album covers. Will Gompertz, will all his passion, has a hard time convincing me that things like "Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab" (Sarah Lucas 1992) or Tracey Emin's "Tent of those I have slept with" and other items are truly works of art.

We get the stories behind all the 'masterpieces' from Van Gogh's sunflowers to Hirst's pickled shark via Cubism, Dadaism, Pop Art and everything else in between, before and after.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 5 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The blurb for this enlightening & entertaining volume gives the reader the impression that it will be an open minded & balanced view of modern art.
The writer is very much biased so if you're after a calm study of where modern art fits into art history as a whole you may be a little disappointed.

However, that said, Gompertz' sheer enthusiasm for his subject is infectious & if, like me, you're knowledge of modern art is basics only then he really does open up what has been a closed area for the uninitiated.

His introduction covering Marcel Duchamp is entertaining & fascinating. He moves on to impressionism but this is the one area in the whole book that is dry as toast & frankly offers little new.
Once back onto home territory he once again picks up the pace & drags the reader along for a very enjoyable ride clear through to todays crowd of Hurst & Emin etc.

The beauty of this work for me is both it's simplicity & the fact that you don't have to like every work being discussed to appreciate the skill & influence involved. It also has to be said that humour is used throughout & although he may be a fan of the genre's involved the writer doesn't baulk at poking fun at pomposity, ridiculousness & sometimes downright lunacy, ( the section looking at one mans fascist influence is one of many eye openers).

The colour plates are fine but this is not a picture book & both they & the basic images scattered throughout the book serve to help discuss & explain whats being said very effectively.

If you love art but have found the modern to be something of a confusing & frankly poor relation then this title is a must.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Feanor on 15 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a good book. It admirably covers the development of modern art, discusses why certain things that might appear like a child made them are actually well thought-out experiments in abstraction and representation, has nice stories about the avant-garde painters, doesn't restrict itself to the Western Europeans, discusses political thought and ideology that coloured the perceptions of the new art, and explains in detail what a novice should look for when confronted with it. My cavils: many paintings are discussed that do not appear in the book, making it difficult to relate to the explanations; many paintings are presented in black and white; and, often, many paintings are discussed several pages away from where they appear in the book, resulting in constant to-ing and fro-ing among the pages. For a medium as visual as art, its presentation is somewhat fuzzy (but of course things might be different in the final product). If you've seen Gombrich's book on art, this might be a pale replacement; on the other hand, this is very accessibly written, and should do much to persuade people that they do know something about art, and can easily learn more if only they read it.
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