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What Are You Looking At?

150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye
Narrated by: Roy McMillan
Length: 13 hrs and 16 mins
Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Arts
5 out of 5 stars (166 ratings)

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Summary

Penguin presents the unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of What Are You Looking At? by Will Gompertz, read by Roy McMilllan. What is modern art? Why do we either love it or loathe it? And why is it worth so much damn money? Join 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 zanne is better); Pollock is no drip; Dali painted with his moustache; a urinal changed the course of art; and why your 5-year-old really couldn't do it. Refreshing, irreverent and always straightforward, What Are You Looking At? asks all the basic questions that you were too afraid to ask. Your next gallery trip is going to be a little less intimidating and a lot more interesting.

©2014 Will Gompertz (P)2014 Penguin Books Limited
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Humorous, on-point & refreshing

For someone like me, doing a degree in art but having neither background nor interest in art history (actually, history of any sort fi I'm being honest), this book is perfect. I have it on Audible and within a very short time, also bought it in paperback (to flick through) and for Kindle (for the links and notes facility). Gompertz, who I knew only as a film and theatre critic (who was not inclined to be pompous or obfuscating about it), writes with a refreshing lack of reverence for the art history schtick that so turns me off; and while he claims not to be entirely accurate (because he's expressing opinions just like everyone else) his humorous gallop through the basics of modern art is just what I needed. Suddenly, names mean more to me, the reasons behind the almost limitless movements make sense to me (at least insofar as they make actual sense at all), and the politics and machinations of the (overwhelmingly) male makers of the art makes sense to me. With Gompertz to hand, I can tackle some of the less welcoming tomes because I have a touchstone. Of all the art books I've bought, this (and Henry Moore's sheep sketchbook with no writing in it at all) is my absolute art undergrad life-saving favourite. Did I say it was a good read? It's a good read, a very good read.

5 people found this helpful

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Its a great listen. Intelligent and engaging.

Its a great example of an audio text that is well read, intelligent with a good central voice that is keen to teach the history of modern art to all without being too light and poppy or too wordy and heavy. perfect balance. I'll be listening to this again.

4 people found this helpful

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excellent

this book is excellent. So informative while also being gripping. It is also well narrated

1 person found this helpful

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Accessible and Enjoyable Listening!

The fact that this audio about a visual medium is not an issue for this well-written exploration of recent art movements. It is extremely well-read and conveys intelligent authorship. And it is not too jovial or too jargon-heavy.

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a must listen, incredibly inspiring!

loved it, couldn't wait to get back and listen for more. wasnt sure how such a visual discipline will translate into audio but it is incredible lessons on how to look and read art. I will listen again and again! thank you for the hours of intellectual pleasure and inspiration!

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  • c
  • 16-05-19

A detailed history of Modern Art

I didn’t know anything about Modern Art before I listened to this. Now I do. That is all.

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I'd listen to this again.

It's like a favourite documentary series. It's best if you can look up the pictures on your phone but it's not necessary.

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Worthwhile but is no Robert Hughes.

Overall good. Breezy writing style but a disappointing final chapter giving too much uncritical space to tedious Britart.

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What a great journey

I have dabbled in visiting modern art for the last decade or so just because i like the way it seems to communicate ideas without words....I found this book gives it’s a framework and context, so the enjoy it more. Loved it

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great book

excellent and easy explanation of the history of art.....gave me a different prespective on how to look at art and lots of ideas....ill look for the other boom from the same author

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  • Beatriz Santana
  • 26-10-15

What are you looking at 150 years of modern Art

Would you listen to What Are You Looking At? again? Why?

Amazing book! I purchased it to help me with a modern art class and I loved it. I would recommend it,

What was one of the most memorable moments of What Are You Looking At??

I enjoyed the whole book.

Have you listened to any of Roy McMillan’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Every chapter was interesting and informative.

Any additional comments?

Great way to understand what happened with art at this time.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Chipper
  • 21-01-15

Good book. Well read.

Informative overview, real knowledge with a good sense of humor. Reader delivers it perfectly. Well worth a listen for art lovers and those curious.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Valeriya
  • 08-12-18

Amazing and the most profound book for a beginner like me

I’ve read a lot of other books about the art history , but this one is the most profound and interesting . So many references and explanations of why the art piece is considered art. Why this art piece is there in terms of the history and art history context

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dora D
  • 28-06-18

A seamlessly woven story of modern art.

This is a very solid introductory book into modern art (and even a bit of contemporary art). Gompertz provides a systematic, clearly explained (though slightly oversimplified - but that is to be expected from a "popular" book) history of modern art and mentions all the most notable names, movements, dates, and works. But all of this is integrated into a series of stories which make the book fun to read and the information in it just so easy to remember.

I would definitely recommend reading it rather than listening to it even though all the works are easy to visualize the way Gompertz describes them. You can always look them up, but this is just an unnecessary complication and gets in the way of really enjoying the book.

Even though the book is quite basic, which is to be expected from something that covers such a broad range of subjects, I think a good number of professionals (art historians, art history students, museologists, gallery-workers, etc.) could definitely benefit from Gompertz's simple approach to art and, more importantly, his uncomplicated way of writing about art.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Andrey
  • 07-09-19

Great read. A bit hard to listen

Can't say I became such an art connoisseur after reading this, but I definitely went from the state "never to go an art gallery" to "make a detour to go to an art gallery". If you want to understand better (but still not completely in my case :)), why the heck someone would pay $60 mil. for Malevich's "Black square", this book not only will satisfy your curiosity, but will also expose you to the vast variety of art works you've never heard of before.
A bit hard to listen to this as an audiobook, a lot of names and verbal descriptions of the artwork. The narrator did not make it any easier, even though the diction was good and the intonation was not robotic, the reading speed was too fast and hard to follow.
In the end, I had to read the text book as well and look up all the pictures. Took quite a bit more time than I expected, but it was fun.

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  • Nigel
  • 30-08-16

Nothing short of awesome

An amazing journey through a little over a century of art and artists. Fascinating insights into the gamut of modern art movements. Detailed analysis of many different pieces of art. All built into a magnificent synthesis of the how the big picture flowed through history. I really enjoyed this book and heartily recommend it to anyone with one or more artistic bones in their being.

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  • Darren
  • 08-04-16

Good read for any level of art knowledge

Read this to refresh my knowledge of art, was very easy to listen to. Strongly recommended!

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  • MARCO
  • 25-04-15

Really good! Strongly Recommended

The book gives a plain full landscape of Art to better understand it! It reminds me what I studied when I was a fresh man in my first year of university.

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  • Ben
  • 03-04-15

An insightful listen

I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and highly recommend it.

I was a little sceptical as to how an art book would go as an audio book but as I have a bit of an art background I thought why not. So glad I did. Will covers in detail the movement and inspiration of the various art movements from the impressionists to today. Insightful, funny and a great performance by Roy McMillan. I did stop the book at times to google the various artworks he described but I found that did not impact on my enjoyment at all.

Five stars without a doubt.

1 person found this helpful