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

. October 2012. 436p. 978-0-52595-267-1. 28.95.
Gompertz (former director, Tate Gallery, London; arts editor, BBC) offers an accessible introduction to the often bewildering field of modern art. Given his stated intent to cut through the opaque language and pretensions of an elitist art world, readers might expect Gompertz to treat the avant-garde and its often inscrutable provocations with a degree of skepticism. Instead, his analysis is almost entirely sympathetic as he briskly moves from the mid-19th-century France of Manet and the impressionists to the early-20th-century New York City of emigré Marcel Duchamp and then to the present-day England of Damien Hirst and the Young British Artists. Rather than hold up older contemporary art as distinct from or preferable to the art of today, Gompertz attempts to forge lines of continuity that allow readers to connect celebrated moments in art history to what they encounter in contemporary art galleries.
VERDICT While its cast of characters may already be familiar to students of art history, Gompertz’s book will appeal to many for its wit, engaging prose, and often highly amusing anecdotes. [See Prepub Alert, 5/15/12.]
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