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

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9780525952671: What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art
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For skeptics, art lovers, and the millions of us who visit art galleries every year—and are confused—What Are You Looking At? by former director of London’s Tate Gallery Will Gompertz is a wonderfully lively, accessible narrative history of Modern Art, from Impressionism to the present day.

What is modern art? Who started it? Why do we either love it or loathe it? And why is it such big money? Join BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz on a dazzling tour that will change the way you look at modern art forever. From Monet's water lilies to Van Gogh's sunflowers, from Warhol's soup cans to Hirst's pickled shark, hear the stories behind the masterpieces, meet the artists as they really were, and discover the real point of modern art.

You will learn: not all conceptual art is bollocks; Picasso is king (but Cézanne is better); Pollock is no drip; Dali painted with his moustache; a urinal changed the course of art; why your 5-year-old really couldn't do it. Refreshing, irreverent and always straightforward, What Are You Looking At? cuts through the pretentious art speak and asks all the basic questions that you were too afraid to ask. Your next trip to the art gallery is going to be a little less intimidating and a lot more interesting.

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.

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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.

From Booklist:

*Starred Review* Gompertz succeeds in his stated mission to take a “personal, informative, anecdotal, and accessible” approach to defining the full spectrum of modern art movements, beginning with impressionism, by portraying the instigating artists and explaining what they were up to and why. A former director of the Tate in London, and currently the arts editor at the BBC, Gompertz is adept at elucidating complex aesthetic ideas and artistic techniques and linking revolutionary art movements to social upheaval (war, communism, the Holocaust) and scientific and technological developments (quantum physics, television, the atom bomb). He revels in the creative, multidisciplinary synergy surrounding such key figures as Monet, Picasso, de Kooning, and Warhol. And he daringly takes a novelist’s approach to such foundational acts as Duchamp’s purchase of a urinal in New York City in 1917 to create a “readymade” sculpture that embodied the pivotal realization that if an artist says something is a work of art, it is. Gompertz adeptly divides each broad movement into its intriguing subgroups and includes many more artists, critics, and dealers than the usual suspects. His dissections of performance and conceptual art are uniquely clarifying, and he even coins a keenly apt term for such current provocateurs as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons: the “entrepreneurialists.” A deeply enlightening and buoyant history of modern art and beyond. --Donna Seaman

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