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

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Reading this book made me feel like an old fogey who worries that life and culture are leaving them behind and they'd better make an effort to catch up.
-Guardian

Synopsis

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.
 

About Will Gompertz

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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. Recently named one of the world's top fifty creative thinkers by Creativity magazine, he lives in Oxford.
 
Published October 25, 2012 by Plume. 465 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for What Are You Looking At?
All: 4 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 2

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by PD Smith on Apr 29 2016

...a big ask for any author. But Gompertz takes up the challenge with immense gusto, and the result is a hugely enjoyable romp through the story of modern art.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Ben Lewis on Sep 08 2012

Reading this book made me feel like an old fogey who worries that life and culture are leaving them behind and they'd better make an effort to catch up.

Read Full Review of What Are You Looking At?: The... | See more reviews from Guardian

WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by Karen Wilkin on Nov 30 2012

...it's difficult to identify just who the readers of Mr. Gompertz's guide for the perplexed might be...

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NPR

Excellent
Reviewed by John Wilwol on Oct 25 2012

The book explains those basic rules over 20 chapters — easily cherry-picked before your next trip to a museum...Each hums with engaging history and entertaining anecdotes, cheeky asides and accessible, illuminating criticism.

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Reader Rating for What Are You Looking At?
87%

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