What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye

Will Gompertz

What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye

For sceptics, art lovers, and the millions of us who visit art galleries every year - and are confused - What Are You Looking At? by BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz is a lively and accessible history of modern art, from Impressionism to the present day. 3.2 out of 5 based on 10 reviews
What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Art, Architecture & Photography
Format Hardback
Pages 464
RRP
Date of Publication September 2012
ISBN 978-0670920495
Publisher Viking
 

For sceptics, art lovers, and the millions of us who visit art galleries every year - and are confused - What Are You Looking At? by BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz is a lively and accessible history of modern art, from Impressionism to the present day.

Reviews

The Independent on Sunday

Charles Darwent

… hugely accessible and old-fashionedly educative … 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. And he does so without the blokey wink-and-nudge of other TV pundits. Most of all, he writes by eye

02/09/2012

Read Full Review


The Literary Review

Michael Prodger

He blithely asserts, ‘I don’t think the real issue is about judging whether or not a brand new piece of contemporary art is good or bad — time will undertake that on our behalf. It is more a question of understanding where and why it falls into the modern art story.’ This is nonsense. If there is no point in judging whether something is good or bad then there is precious little point in contemporary art at all ... Gompertz is, however, rather more assured when it comes to telling the ‘modern art story’ itself ... [His] enthusiasm is infectious

01/09/2012

Read Full Review


The Evening Standard

Christopher Bray

... an essential primer not only for art lovers but for art loathers too. Still, there’s no denying that What Are You Looking At? loses focus the nearer it gets to the present day. Gompertz might be adamant that history is the only real judge of a work of art but he seems confident enough giving his verdicts anyway. That’s because his verdicts are all the same: every famous work of art, from Damien Hirst’s futilely derivative spot paintings to Bruce Nauman’s nauseously narcissistic videos, are right on the money. Indeed any work of art that has recently been bought for a high price gets his endorsement.

31/08/2012

Read Full Review


The Tablet

Marina Vaizey

Gompertz takes some wonderful and at times rather vulgar liberties, and is both judgemental and opinionated. In telling the tale in a series of rapid summaries of major movements, he provokes, tantalises and irritates. You will want to argue with his generalisations, characterisations and conclusions. I share Gompertz’s distaste for pretentiousness and obfuscation but art can be difficult and we often have to work to appreciate it fully, just as the artist had to work to create it.

23/08/2012

Read Full Review


The Times

Rachel Campbell-Johnston

... this book would have been much improved if — like Ernst Gombrich’s classic, The Story of Art, from which it takes its lead — pictures had been more liberally scattered ... Gompertz is primarily a teacher ... He warns his readers when things are about to get difficult: leads them through the complexities of abstraction, for instance, or gives both sides of the argument when it comes to currently fashionable multi-disciplinary trends ... I would recommend Gompertz’s new book to any youngster embarking on their new fine art or art history degree course.

08/09/2012

Read Full Review


The Sunday Times

Bryan Appleyard

This book starts badly but gets better … Gompertz is not a great intellectual and neither is he a brilliant prose stylist. “Rousseau,” he writes at one point, “was the Susan Boyle of his day.” He skims the surface rather than plumbs the depths and, occasionally, uses the word “iconic”, a felony for us all but a capital crime for an art historian. Never mind, this is a straightforward tour guide and, as such, once the author and the publisher have stopped doing their best to drive you away, it works well enough as a conventional history of modern and contemporary art.

02/09/2012

Read Full Review


The Sunday Telegraph

Martin Herbert

Highly readable ... The Shock of the New redone à la Bill Bryson ... [A] skewed focus on Britain — a minor player within Modernism, it must be said — is characteristic … If this narrow geographical emphasis is understandable — identifying an audience, pitching to it — then more lamentable is the absence, here, of a chapter exploring the “other”, contemporaneous modernisms that art historians and curators have unearthed in recent years: from South America, Eastern Europe, Japan, Africa. It’s a missed opportunity, but Gompertz evidently doesn’t see reclassifying the canon as his role. He wants to tell the old story in new language, to new (and probably British) people.

21/08/2012

Read Full Review


The Financial Times

Rachel Spence

Gompertz’s mistake is to retrace territory already covered by Robert Hughes in his bible on 20th-century art, The Shock of the New, which captivated millions of inexpert art lovers thanks to its literary panache ... Gompertz is spot-on to open with Duchamp’s foray into bathroom furnishings. But rather than backtracking to Monet and then plodding through to abstract expressionism, he should have leapfrogged straight to the neo-Dadaists. Born in 1965, Gompertz is a child of his time, effortlessly explaining the paradox — part-rebel, part-wannabe — that was Andy Warhol, before marching confidently through conceptualism, minimalism and postmodernism.

31/08/2012

Read Full Review


The Independent

Peter York

... the expectations raised by the breezy prose and the mass-culture references is that we'll get to a new take on the development of audiences and markets: something beyond a competent walk through the isms. But despite the obligatory acknowledgement that "art people talk bollocks sometimes", his approach remains relentlessly conventional.

08/09/2012

Read Full Review


The Observer

Ben Lewis

... a patchy book, its language often formulaic … The real problem with this book is not the art history but the reader that it constructs. It's not surprising that Gompertz — BBC arts editor since 2009 — should have adopted the approach he does because TV executives today all make the same mistake of imagining that their "audience" don't know anything about, and don't much like, contemporary art. But most people I meet are pretty clued-up about it, and I've hardly ever met anyone under 70 who thinks that Duchamp's urinal or Carl Andre's bricks shouldn't be considered art.

09/09/2012

Read Full Review


©2013 The Omnivore