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The Accidental Masterpiece


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About the Author

Michael Kimmelman is chief art critic of The New York Times and a contributor to The New York Review of Books. A native New Yorker, he was educated at Yale and Harvard, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and is the author of Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre and Elsewhere, which was named as a notable book of the year by the Times and The Washington Post. He has written and hosted various television shows about the arts. He is also a pianist.


The chief art critic of the New York Times, Kimmelman (Portraits) delivers an uplifting art-is-good-for-you message that is surprisingly easy to swallow. Intelligent but not obscure, warm but not intrusively personal, Kimmelman manages in 10 chapters to cover a lot of ground, with a working definition of "art" that goes far beyond what's found in galleries and museums. The reader encounters not only the likes of Pierre Bonnard and Matthew Barney but Hugh Francis Hicks, a serious collector of lightbulbs, and Frank Hurley, whose miraculously preserved images of the 1914 Antarctic Endurance expedition are as haunting as any "art." This is Kimmelman's point: though passionately concerned with "gallery" art, he is more concerned with the rewards of aesthetic experience, how the attentiveness we bring to art can help to make a "daily masterpiece" of ordinary life. Kimmelman's enthusiasm is infectious; he has an impressive ability to incorporate recent artistic trends into his argument; the chapter on "The Art of the Pilgrimage," for instance, discusses the earth art of Michael Heizer and the minimalism of Donald Judd with a clarity that doesn't shortchange the work's difficulty. If Proust can change your life, so can Bonnard. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

In this ten-essay collection filled with various platitudes and deep thoughts about the connections between life and art, Kimmelman, chief art critic for the New York Times (Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre, and Elsewhere), examines the theme of the accidental masterpiece-a universal, "creative impulse, a deep compulsion pursued to the nth degree" that when recognized by individuals renders their lives artful and results in art that resembles lives. Relating to the lives and works of famous and lesser-known artists and literary figures-e.g., Pierre Bonnard, Paul C?zanne, Charlotte Salomon, Lewis Carroll, Nancy Holt, and Matthew Barney-as well as to those of explorers, obsessives, enthusiasts, amateurs, collectors, and others, Kimmelman successfully argues that art can be found in ordinary experiences as well as extraordinary ones. By way of several diverse examples and an encompassing literary framework, he provides readers with valuable insight into his subjects' lives and works as well as into their own. Kitschy and candid yet thought-provoking and uniquely awesome, this stimulating but not-too-scholarly book is recommended for most public libraries and some special and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/05.]-Cheryl Ann Lajos, Free Lib. of Philadelphia Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"A book that captures very well the enigmatic status of art and how we might approach it. . . . Kimmelman [is] a knowledgeable guide to all sorts of places we'd never have though of going." --Adrian Searle, The New York Times

"Michael Kimmelman writes that 'the world is full of amazing surprises.' As it happens, this book is one of them. Knowledgeable, charming, thoughtful, lucid, unpretentious writing about art? A critic who actually leaves his room and comes back with stories about interesting people and places in the real world? And if that weren't amazing and surprising enough, Kimmelman is on an earnest old-school quest, determined to convince us (in his charming and unpretentious way) that modern art is not a cynical game, that we can glimpse all kinds of improbable marvels and wonders in all sorts of places if we take the time to look and feel and think. I am grateful for The Accidental Masterpiece." --Kurt Anderson, New York Times-bestselling writer and host of the Peabody-winning radio program Studio 360 "I get more from reading Michael Kimmelman--the dry wit, the elegant conviviality of tone, the broad range and the underlying toughness of judgment--than from any art critic writing now. He really knows art and, what's more, really enjoys it. And he brings that enjoyment to the reader in a way that you can't fail to share. He's neither a jargoneer nor an art world nerd: He is deeply immersed in life, its pleasures, and the winding, unexpected ways in which art puts you in touch with both. Chapeau!" --Robert Hughes, awarding-winning art critic, writer, and director "Michael Kimmelman, one of the most brilliant and sensitive critics of our time, in this book presents a surprisingly refreshing view of art and artists. From the beginning to the end, he exercises his wry sense of humor to explain something that is deeply insightful of our culture. His book shows how you may be an artist too, without even knowing. Read, and see yourself in this mirror of our contemporary and future society. You'll love it." --Yoko Ono

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