What Are You Looking At? 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye by Will Gompertz - review by Michael Prodger

Michael Prodger

From Marcel to Damien

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

By

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According to Will Gompertz, the BBC’s arts editor and Professor Pat Pending from Wacky Races look-alike: ‘It’s a fact of life: rock stars trash hotels; sportsmen and women get injured; arts folk talk bollocks.’ He has a point: modern art has an unrivalled capacity to bring out the prolixity and bilge in those who write about it, and Gompertz is honest enough to admit to indulging in occasional bouts of testicle talk himself. Perhaps as a result he has written What Are You Looking At?, a primer to modern art, in a determinedly demotic style.

There is nothing particularly new in the story he tells. Modern art for him starts, as it does for almost all commentators, with Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 Fountain, a ceramic urinal which, displayed upside down in a gallery, was the first object to break with the traditional forms of painting and

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