Tag Archives: will gompretz

Review: What are you looking at?

My artdissey around the European museums took an unexpected turn this year when I planned my summer surf vacation. It turned out that during my surf travelings I will have to spend a day in Lisbon, Portugal by myself. So the first thing that I did was to google the “best museums in Lisbon”. There were plenty of results, but however the Museu Coleção Berardo grabbed my attention the most.

A pic I took on the outside of Berardo Museum in Lisbon.

Basically I had a whole month before my vacation, I knew where I’d go the day I arrive in Lisbon and I knew that I need to find a way to understand what I will be looking at when I get to the Berardo Museum. This is how I found the book of Will Gompretz “What are you looking at?”. Turned out that the author was an ex director of the Tate Modern museum in London. I didn’t need any further thinking to know that this is the book I have to read before going to such a big modern art museum as Berardo.

“Art is always to an extent about trying to create order out of chaos .”

The book captures the evolution of modern art form impressionism (late 19th century to pop art (1960s-70s) and contemporary art. The author claims that it is written for beginners, but honestly when I read it I felt like I went through 2 semesters of art school.

As someone who visited couple of modern art museum around Europe, it was very interesting for me to read about some of the things I have previously looked at, but now put in a chronological perspective through the understanding of one of the most well respected art curators in the world.

With this in mind I must note that it was extremely interesting for me to read about the impressionist painters. A generation of artists whose work I’ve already seen a great deal of in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris. All of the painters that impressed me at D’Orsay were mentioned and discussed in Gompretz’s guide to the modern art.

“Paint, for the Impressionists, became a medium whose material properties were being celebrated as opposed to being disguised behind the artifice of a pictorial illusion.”

One of my favorite parts in the book is when Gompretz writes about Picassso. Picasso is basically the Jesus Christ of art. At D’Orsay I visited a temporary exhibiton of paintings from his early blue and rose periods. In”What are you looking at?” I learned more about his later works and development as an artist.

Pablo Picasso. Madame Canals [Benedetta Bianco]. Paris, [autumn] 1905.  Snapped by me in Musee D’Orsay in October 2018.

Aside the fact that the book was extremely enriching in terms of names of big artists and their biographies, it was a great journey through the different art movements. I was very pleased to learn in such a interesting way about how the art movements emerged in Europe and spread their influence across the Atlantic ocean and beyond.

Head, 1938-41 by Jackson Pollock. Snapped by me in the Berardo Museum.

I always thought that it’s a bit pretentious to talk about art in term of “…isms” but when I educated myself with this amazing piece of a modern art guide, I couldn’t help myself but talk with the same vocabulary with my friends. See what books can do to us? 😉

Campbell’s Soup Cans, Andy Warhol (American, 1928–1987). Snapped by me in the Berardo Museum in August 2019.

You can find the book from amazon or audible, if you prefer listening to it.

Have a look at my journey inside the Berardo Museum here.