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Customer Review

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Work of passion, knowledge and a great love for the subject., 3 Oct. 2012
This review is from: What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye (Hardcover)
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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. As I mentioned, Gompertz really knows his stuff, as you would expect from someone who for seven years was director of the Tate Modern and there is no pretentious intellectualism or gooblegook speak, all written in good, clear, understandable English. Aimed at those who would like to know a little more about what they are looking at and would like to know why their five year old son, daughter or tame pet parrot could not do better. You might not end up convinced about all of it but it sure as hell is an interesting and thought stretching journey.

One important thing - this is book of narrative, not a coffee table sized volume of glossy prints on luxurious photo paper, there are only 16 pages of colour prints and another 39 black and white, mainly half page illustrations in the rest of the book. Like my daughter said when I mentioned this fact - what do you want for twenty quid? In fact only twelve if you buy from Amazon.
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