Who's Afraid of Contemporary Art?

by: Kyung An (0)

A smart and playful introduction to the often-mystifying world of contemporary art.

What is contemporary art? What makes it contemporary? Who is it for? And why is it so expensive?

From museums and the art market to biennials and the next big thing, Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art? offers concise and pointed insights into today’s art scene, decoding "artspeak," explaining what curators do, demystifying conceptual art, exploring emerging art markets, and more. In this easy-to-navigate A to Z guide, the authors’ playful explanations draw on key artworks, artists, and events from around the globe, including how the lights going on and off won the Turner Prize, what makes the likes of Marina Abramovic´ and Ai Weiwei such great artists, and why Kanye West would trade his Grammys to be one.

Packed with behind-the-scenes information and delightfully free from jargon, this paperback edition of Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art? is the perfect gallery companion and the go-to guide for when the next big thing leaves you stumped.

40 color illustrations

The Reviews

The book is a short and fast read but the conciseness is its virtue. The book is divided into short chapters addressing various question and topics and while each chapter are only a few pages in length don’t let the length deceive you. The authors have beautifully condensed their explanations and thoughts into very easily digestible and articulate prose. The book succeeds as a guidebook to steer newcomers to art who have the interest and open mindedness to engage. It suggests how to approach the art itself as well as to introduce and suggest ways to interact with the main players that inhabit the “serious” parts of the art ecosystem (i.e. the rather insular one of “serious” museums, galleries, and artists for lack of a better term). The book posits interesting questions that face the entire world with the advent of technology that is changing how we all live and communicated. Finally, it is also a beautiful homage to the importance of artists and of art generally.The book provides one of the best two page histories of art that I've read. Under the chapter titled “Bringing You Up to Speed” it explains how the notion of art has evolved over time thus providing the readers with the contextual parameters of today’s contemporary art.I appreciated how the authors suggest that the term contemporary art “might be thought of as a thematic categorization rather than a purely temporal one” and goes further to describe the various practices found in art today. Within these discussions, the authors provide some examples of artworks and these descriptions, while short (a few lines to a few paragraphs), explain the works eloquently and beautifully ruminate on the works of Joseph Kosuth, Tino Sehgal, Carl Andre, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Martin Creed, Santiago Sierra, and Hito Steyerl (to name just a few). Beautifully written, these descriptions will only enhance the interest for those willing to engage with this art that deals with contemporary culture and issues.And that is the point, if you are a person that will just roll his or her eyes when confronted with a difficult work and not be willing to engage then no book or experience will convince you otherwise and that is totally fine. The art world is a big place and types of art are varied and no one is telling you what to like. This book makes no judgment as to that but suggests that everyone has their own criteria. In fact, what is contemporary art is a question most gallerists and art people hate to hear and in many cases cause them to roll their eyes just as the person asking the question would. I suppose that serious art galleries have their target audience and their defined role (e.g. not that of an educator to the masses something museums are doing much more creatively), regardless, if there is a willingness to engage from both parties then opinions and answer can differ and the discussion can move forward. The authors suggest taking a leap of faith and to try to accept that what you see “is art” and not to get bogged down or dismiss the question as a philosophical one that might preclude or preempt any meaningful engagement with the art itself. In this regard, the mission of the book is to help the reader not dismiss the works and to instead prompt the reader to ask what the art does for you. I suppose this is all that art can ask of you.As in all contemporary life, with the advent of the Internet and our increased inter-connectedness, the last ten years has seen fundamental and colossal changes in how we live and communicate. This has had an undoubtedly profound impact. As an owner of a contemporary art gallery, I expect this historically insular and closed off art world to be less insular with this information flow and how we engage and communicate … it can be negative but can also be positive. Regardless, as the book posits, we are just beginning to engage with the Internet in art, be it in the artist’s practice but also in the machinations of the art world ecosystem. It can be an interesting and important journey and this book is a perfect starting off point for those willing to participate.


Easy read...

It was a class that required reading. Not much in for contemporary art in itself, more like a brief manual for Art majors on their way to graduating and planning a career in the art market.

Quickly and easily describes way to view art. Fun and informative read. I plan on use in my docent training.

Some interesting short pieces. Not really a book, not even really a book of essays. But a nice diversion for those with an intermediate knowledge of art.

Over all, it has good information on contemporary art. However, I found the several of the contributors writings out of touch, as if they were from an idealized parallel universe. Some writings are from the view of plutarchs. So, heed what you read and check their back ground. Enjoy!

Great art reference book.

Who's Afraid of Contemporary Art?
⭐ 4.2 💛 50
kindle: $14.20
paperback: $13.48
hardcover: $8.05
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