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Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That: Modern Art Explained

by Susie Hodge - £9.99  Thames & Hudson Ltd (2012)
paperback    ISBN 13: 9780500290477 | ISBN 10: 0500290474

In this enjoyable and thought-provoking book Susie Hodge explains, thoroughly and conclusively, why modern art is not, and never has been, child’s play.
 
The book examines 100 works of modern art that have attracted critical hostility – from Cy Twombly’s scribbled Olympia (1957), Jean-Michel Basquiat’s crude but spontaneous LNAPRK (1982), to the apparently careless mess of Tracey Emin’s My Bed (1998) – and explains how, far from being negligible novelties, they are extensions of the artistic ideas of their time.
 
In the past, estimation of artists' stature took great account of their ability to produce a likeness of the real world. A portrait was expected to be a faithful likeness, and landscapes had to be recognizable in all their details. However, especially after the arrival of photography, many artists ceased to make such ‘true’ likenesses in favour of more immediate images that sought to express feelings about their subjects. From the beginning of this sea change, critics have mistaken an apparent lack of technique for a lack of sophistication, often deriding works as nothing more than the untutored efforts of children.
 
Susie Hodge explains how ‘notorious’ works such as Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII (1966) – a rectangular arrangement of fire-bricks that is admittedly easily copied by a child – occupy unique niches in the history of ideas, both showing influences of past artists and themselves influencing subsequent artists. A five-year-old might succeed in executing a spin painting such as those of Damien Hirst without understanding the ideas that lay behind it or its place in the history of artistic endeavour, but it does not follow that this work would be of significance to artists and historians.
 
With illustrations of works from Hans Arp to Adolf Wölfli, Hodge places each work in its cultural context to present an unforgettable vision of modern art. This book will give you an understanding of the ways in which modern art differs from the realistic works of earlier centuries, transforming as well as informing your gallery visits for years to come.

(Price & availability last checked: September 2019)

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In booklists: Modern Art,
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