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The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa PDF, ePub eBook A New York Times bestseller—a dazzling and inspirational survey of how art can be found and appreciated in everyday life Michael Kimmelman, the prominent New York Times writer and a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, is known as a deep and graceful writer across the disciplines of art and music and also as a pianist who understands something about the arti A New York Times bestseller—a dazzling and inspirational survey of how art can be found and appreciated in everyday life Michael Kimmelman, the prominent New York Times writer and a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, is known as a deep and graceful writer across the disciplines of art and music and also as a pianist who understands something about the artist's sensibility from the inside. Readers have come to expect him not only to fill in their knowledge about art but also to inspire them to think about connections between art and the larger world - which is to say, to think more like an artist. Kimmelman's many years of contemplating and writing about art have brought him to this wise, wide-ranging, and long-awaited book. It explores art as life's great passion, revealing what we can learn of life through pictures and sculptures and the people who make them. It assures us that art - points of contact with the exceptional that are linked straight to the heart - can be found almost anywhere and everywhere if only our eyes are opened enough to recognize it. Kimmelman regards art, like all serious human endeavors, as a passage through which a larger view of life may come more clearly into focus. His book is a kind of adventure or journey. It carries the message that many of us may not yet have learned how to recognize the art in our own lives. To do so is something of an art itself. A few of the characters Kimmelman describes, like Bonnard and Chardin, are great artists. But others are explorers and obscure obsessives, paint-by-numbers enthusiasts, amateur shutterbugs, and collectors of strange odds and ends. Yet others, like Charlotte Solomon, a girl whom no one considered much of an artist but who secretly created a masterpiece about the world before her death in Auschwitz, have reserved spots for themselves in history, or not, with a single work that encapsulates a whole life. Kimmelman reminds us of the Wunderkammer, the cabinet of wonders - the rage in seventeenth-century Europe and a metaphor for the art of life. Each drawer of the cabinet promises something curious and exotic, instructive and beautiful, the cabinet being a kind of ideal, self-contained universe that makes order out of the chaos of the world. The Accidental Masterpiece is a kind of literary Wunderkammer, filled with lively surprises and philosophical musings. It will inspire readers to imagine their own personal cabinet of wonders.

30 review for The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa

  1. 5 out of 5

    Heidi The Reader

    Michael Kimmelman, art critic for the New York Times, gives art trivia and philosophic insights in The Accidental Masterpiece. ... I have come to feel that everything, even the most ordinary daily affair, is enriched by the lessons that can be gleaned from art: that beauty is often where you don't expect to find it; that it is something we may discover and also invent, then reinvent, for ourselves; that the most important things in the world are never as simple as they seem but that the world is Michael Kimmelman, art critic for the New York Times, gives art trivia and philosophic insights in The Accidental Masterpiece. ... I have come to feel that everything, even the most ordinary daily affair, is enriched by the lessons that can be gleaned from art: that beauty is often where you don't expect to find it; that it is something we may discover and also invent, then reinvent, for ourselves; that the most important things in the world are never as simple as they seem but that the world is also richer when it declines to abide by comforting formulas." pg 5 Though, at times, I felt as if he was getting too deep into the art "appreciation" portions, I learned a great deal about not just unconventional forms of art, but how art can be found in your every day life. It is all a matter of adjusting how you view reality. There were some historical tidbits I particularly enjoyed. For example, did you know that when Kodak film was invented and made the art of photography available to the general public, that some professional photographers believed the medium was doomed? "The placing in the hands of the general public a means of making pictures with but little labor and requiring less knowledge has of necessity been followed by the production of millions of photographs," wrote Alfred Stieglitz in 1899. "It is due to this fatal facility that photography as a picture-making medium has fallen into disrepute." pg 32 Wonder what Stieglitz would have made of Instagram. Or this other bit of trivia, which seemed particularly apropos with the news reporting today that so many people climbing Mount Everest that they've become a danger to themselves and others: humankind didn't always find mountains beautiful or worthy of appreciation. The Romans hated the mountains — they were difficult to maneuver armies across and also enemies had a nasty habit of popping out of them. (Think Hannibal.) Here's a young Thomas Hobbes' view of mountains: "Behind a ruin'd mountain does appear Swelling into two parts, which turgent are As when we bend our bodies to the ground, The buttocks amply sticking out are found." pg 55 Hilarious. And now we highly value mountain views and the sublime feeling of ascending a mountain's peak. "The evolution of the whole modern worldview, including the notion of beauty, you might even say, is exemplified by the evolution of our feelings toward mountains." pg 56 I also enjoyed Kimmelman's thoughts on the art of collecting objects, every day and otherwise. I live with someone who has serious collecting tendencies — notably a large military hat collection. It made me appreciate my husband even more when I found out there are people in the world who collect things like light bulbs to the extent where they've set up light bulb-themed museums. In their own homes. We've agreed (so far) to keep the collection in one room. So, comparably, I'm doing pretty well. :) Recommended for readers who enjoy non-fiction reads about art, philosophy and a curious mix of the two.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sparrow

    There’s a bitter old guy – an artist, apparently – who sells books on Prospect Park West, in my parents’ Brooklyn neighborhood. I bought four books for my wife for her birthday last year, and this guy – I don’t know his name – pressed this book on me (as a free bonus). “You have to read this!” he insisted. So I did, shortly afterwards. "The Accidental Masterpiece" has a simple thesis: in the old days, before postimpressionism, art and life were separate. An artist did his work (or her work), then There’s a bitter old guy – an artist, apparently – who sells books on Prospect Park West, in my parents’ Brooklyn neighborhood. I bought four books for my wife for her birthday last year, and this guy – I don’t know his name – pressed this book on me (as a free bonus). “You have to read this!” he insisted. So I did, shortly afterwards. "The Accidental Masterpiece" has a simple thesis: in the old days, before postimpressionism, art and life were separate. An artist did his work (or her work), then went home, had dinner and fell asleep. But starting around the time of Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) art began to look like daily life, and daily life began to look like an “art practice.” In this book, Kimmelman wanders around the USA, meeting artists, noticing how they work and how they live. About a third of the way through the book, he forgets his thesis – because, to be honest, these are actually a bunch of essays he wrote separately for the New York Times – and maybe other periodicals. (I read a galley addition, so the acknowledgments are absent.) But I must say, "The Accidental Masterpiece" is adroit and necessary. (Even though art is widely popular now, very few people actually study contemporary artists. More is known about hedge fund managers than about Philip Pearlstein (to give one example).) Though Bonnard constantly painted his unsettling but pretty wife – even after her death! – and seemed to be recording the quotidian details of their lives (especially their breakfasts), the rest of the artists just seem like a bunch of obsessed people. For example: "Finally, in 1969, eleven years after she had begun working on it, 'The Rose' was exhibited, but by then the art world had changed. Conceived in the era of Jackson Pollock and the Beats, the painting, a massive grey monolith of strange delicacy and gloomy bohemianism, emerged in the age of Pop Art and psychedelia. A reviewer dubbed it 'a glorious anachronism.' It was falling apart. Slabs of paint were sliding off it like lava from a volcano. Museums didn’t want to buy it, fearing it would cost a fortune to restore, and DeFeo refused to give it away." (I opened the book at random, and found that passage.) How does one define 'art' and 'life'? 'The Rose' is a painting, an abstract painting. It doesn’t seem to be inextricable from the artist’s life, anymore than the Mona Lisa was inextricable from Leonardo’s. An artist is not a taxi driver. Her work is GENERATED by her life; it’s not just a occupation anyone can do. But perhaps Jay DeFeo made a clear delineation between her 'working' hours and her 'personal' hours, just as a taxi driver does. We can’t really know. And Kimmelman doesn’t seem terribly interested. He loves his thesis, more than he loves proving it. Yesterday I was reading "The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell", and found a great statement: “I would much rather trade my paintings than sell them, but very few people who have what I want are art collectors.” (Motherwell is a better writer than Kimmelman.)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    This was a little better than I expected. While it didn't achieve greatness, it avoided that lazy, thrown-together feel that similar slim, ruminative books often have. Kimmelman has always struck me as a very likable, humane critic, and his text here reinforces that. I would have liked to see better cover art. Instead of the stock photo of a gumball machine on the back (an echo of the chapter on Wayne Thiebaud and his gumball machine paintings), why not an actual piece of art? The strongest chapt This was a little better than I expected. While it didn't achieve greatness, it avoided that lazy, thrown-together feel that similar slim, ruminative books often have. Kimmelman has always struck me as a very likable, humane critic, and his text here reinforces that. I would have liked to see better cover art. Instead of the stock photo of a gumball machine on the back (an echo of the chapter on Wayne Thiebaud and his gumball machine paintings), why not an actual piece of art? The strongest chapter for me was the one on making pilgrimages to see art which is not readily accessible, in some urban museum. It begins with a discussion of Matthias Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece in Colmar, Alsace and moves on to Donald Judd's installations at Marfa, Texas and Michael Heizer's giant earth forms in Nevada, touching on the ego or crustiness of each artist. (Walter de Maria, Nancy Holt, Robert Smithson, and James Turrell also get mentions.) Kimmelman throws in a comment from figurative painter John Currin, who finds earthworks (Heizer, Smithson, and Turrell's type of art) "depressing and sanctimonious" rather than heroic. "I don't like religion," [Currin] told me. "And this sort of work appeals to a type of spirituality I've never been able to work up enthusiasm for..." Kimmelman quotes critic Clement Greenberg on Judd - Greenberg "thought Judd's art lacked taste because it trafficked in 'aimless surprise' and a 'boredom so undifferentiated as to constitute a surprise all in itself'". After a long bit about the rigors involved in constructing Heizer's giant work City (at one point Heizer asked "that hundreds of thousands of yards of dirt be moved 27 inches to align" two different parts of the design), Kimmelman concludes the chapter with a nearly deadly visit to Matthew Barney's outdoor set of Cremaster 2 in the salt flats of Utah, where he became lost and disoriented walking from a broken down car back to the road in total blackness and waist-deep icy waters. Other chapters discuss Pierre Bonnard and the strange relationship with his lover/muse/wife Marthe; TV schlock artist Bob Ross, Yoko Ono, and the odd art of Ray Johnson; mountain climbing for the views; a vast collection of lightbulbs, which Kimmelman relates to the Barnes Collection and art and wonder cabinets (Kunst- und Wunderkammern); three female artists who died young; the photography of Shackleton's Endurance voyage; the creation of a Philip Pearlstein nude painting (after spending many sessions watching Pearlstein paint, Kimmelman elicits a self-effacing comment: "I expect this one won't sell either. There isn't much of a market for chest hair. But this is what I do..."); and the small, unpretentious subjects of painters Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin and Thiebaud. In the first anecdote of the book, Kimmelman relates how years ago he toured the Pompidou museum with Henri Cartier-Bresson. Arriving at one of Bonnard's late self-portraits, Kimmelman finds Bonnard "more pathetic" in it than in photographs: ...an old man before the mirror, shadowy against a brilliantly colored backdrop, his head a pulpy, sunburned blob on a skinny naked torso, the face slightly out of focus, the eyes recessed in the skull. It is one of the humblest, most unsentimental self-portraits in modern art. Cartier-Bresson looked at it for a moment, turned to me, and said, "You know, Picasso didn't like Bonnard and I can imagine why, because Picasso had no tenderness. It is only a very flat explanation to say that Bonnard is looking in a mirror in this painting. He's looking far, far beyond. To me he is the greatest painter of the century. Picasso was a genius, but that is something quite different."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lara

    Not every aspect of this book is perfect. There are some chapters that are less interesting or compelling than others. But overall, this is a gem and a complete surprise. The book is about art and the comfort it can give, not just to the viewer, but to the artists making it. Yet this description is not enough - it also explains art that most do not consider beautiful, or consider in any way: it explains where the artist is coming from, why the creator has chosen this subject to devote all of her Not every aspect of this book is perfect. There are some chapters that are less interesting or compelling than others. But overall, this is a gem and a complete surprise. The book is about art and the comfort it can give, not just to the viewer, but to the artists making it. Yet this description is not enough - it also explains art that most do not consider beautiful, or consider in any way: it explains where the artist is coming from, why the creator has chosen this subject to devote all of her or his (unfortunately, a majority of the artists covered here are men, with a few notable exceptions) time - in this way, the author makes the reader appreciate what she would not have appreciated, or even considered except in passing, before. He picks art that is generally not appreciated or understood by the majority of the population - he's not examining the Pieta here, folks - and in that way, makes what may be considered aloof a little more accessible. Kimmelman divides up his chapters to resemble some of the different ways artists have made art in life - from how it depends on your point of view of what beauty is ("The Art of the Lofty Perspective") to the way artists can fixate on one small aspect of their lives and make it their world ("The Art of Making a World") to how art can come from the harshest of circumstances ("The Art of Finding Yourself When You're Lost") to my favorite, how some artists can immerse themselves completely in one work, one piece, and make it the reason they get up in the morning, for their entire lives ("The Art of Maximizing Your Time"). This book covers modern artists and Yoko Ono and Pierre Bonnard and mountain vistas, and it's only 226 pages. And the author has some insight about each! There is overlap amongst the chapters - one theme can easily apply to another section of the book - but that does not make it contradictory in the least. If anything, it lets the reader see a piece of art from several different viewpoints, and consider the tunnel-vision of the artist in fixating on this piece. I'll never be a great art-lover, but the author makes me think about the world around me. He gives me a glimpse of what these artists see, and how something that on first glance is nothing special, can be called art.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christine Henry

    This slim book is a fabulous collection of meditations on the art that surrounds us everyday. Written by Michael Kimmelman, art critic for the New York Times, it is a collection of essays on paintings, sculpture, etc that is perceived as Art, and the process of looking at our lives and the lives of others as being artful. One of his underlying themes is the importance of passion in creating art. That passion can be in the form of collecting an example of every light bulb known to exist and shari This slim book is a fabulous collection of meditations on the art that surrounds us everyday. Written by Michael Kimmelman, art critic for the New York Times, it is a collection of essays on paintings, sculpture, etc that is perceived as Art, and the process of looking at our lives and the lives of others as being artful. One of his underlying themes is the importance of passion in creating art. That passion can be in the form of collecting an example of every light bulb known to exist and sharing that collection in your basement. As the former curators of the Squished Penny Museum www.squished.com I can really relate! Or the passion can take the form of putting yourself in harm's way or at least risk in order to experience something like the Antarctic explorers and the photographer who documented their journey. Kimmelman provides a thoughtful reflection on what art is, and made me think about why so many people seek art in their lives. One of my favorite pieces in the collection explores the PBS denizen of peace and tranquility among happy trees, Bob Ross. Michael Kimmelman instinctively grasps Ross' love for both art and the process of finding that artistic space within yourself, a passion that he shared for hundreds of quietly encouraging hours of his televised paint-along series. The most provocative part of the essay was when Kimmelman shared the fact that Bob Ross knew that most viewers were not painting along, but simply enjoyed watching him paint. Kimmelman explores the idea that it was the sight of creation rather than the act of creation that was so compelling. It is this kind of insight that makes this book well worth exploring.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Angeline

    Reading this book felt like I had walked into the middle of someone else's conversation, and while I understood everything that was being said I had missed the context and purpose. I kept wondering what the point was. I also found myself wishing it was either more - a full art history analysis - or less - a short article in a magazine.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    Nicely written book This book is not about art per se, but more about how art came about. I enjoyed in particular the chapters on collecting and Antarctica. Collecting led to museums and what went into them (art). Antarctica was about travel photography and how the photographs taken there are now a part of our historical memory. What is particularly nice is how non-judgmental the author is - this adds value to every chapter and the various types of art represented. In the last chapter Michael K Nicely written book This book is not about art per se, but more about how art came about. I enjoyed in particular the chapters on collecting and Antarctica. Collecting led to museums and what went into them (art). Antarctica was about travel photography and how the photographs taken there are now a part of our historical memory. What is particularly nice is how non-judgmental the author is - this adds value to every chapter and the various types of art represented. In the last chapter Michael Kimmelman relates well the realism of objects painted in our current era to past era's - capturing something innocuous like a gum-ball machine or earlier representations of simple commonplace things that surround people in everyday life. Capturing everyday things that we hardly notice is art in itself. All-in-all an enjoyable read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Pollopicu

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'm reading all the reviews and am wondering if we're discussing the same book... I can't say I remember much details about it.. Mostly interesting yet useless information. It's about how people's projects and passions accidentally become works of art. In one chapter of the book I remember the author talking about a friend who had this modest library in his small NYC city apt, how it had become sort of his masterpiece. The books were placed just so, not necessarily organized.. and I got the impre I'm reading all the reviews and am wondering if we're discussing the same book... I can't say I remember much details about it.. Mostly interesting yet useless information. It's about how people's projects and passions accidentally become works of art. In one chapter of the book I remember the author talking about a friend who had this modest library in his small NYC city apt, how it had become sort of his masterpiece. The books were placed just so, not necessarily organized.. and I got the impression the collection was nourished throughout it's growth and had become part of this man's personality. I thought that was extremely interesting since I've always felt like that about my own collection. But other than that story the book was pretty dull.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    This is maybe the third time I tried to start this essay collection, and I'm so happy I finally got past the first one. I get why it's placed first, but the rest of the pieces are SO much better. Genuinely well-written, meticulously researched (often hands-on), and wonderfully woven. I don't know that there's anything exceptionally new said here, but half the pleasure of an essay is the structure, and most of the other half is the weird shit you learn on the journey to the point, so it's all goo This is maybe the third time I tried to start this essay collection, and I'm so happy I finally got past the first one. I get why it's placed first, but the rest of the pieces are SO much better. Genuinely well-written, meticulously researched (often hands-on), and wonderfully woven. I don't know that there's anything exceptionally new said here, but half the pleasure of an essay is the structure, and most of the other half is the weird shit you learn on the journey to the point, so it's all good. The standout essay for me, though all were solid, was "The Art of Having a Lofty Perspective." Beautiful example of a fab essay -- and beautiful, period. Total pleasure to read!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kasandra

    Some mildly interesting essays on the place of art in life and the life of particular artists; most of these were artists I'd already heard of or seen works by, so the essays weren't particularly edifying. If you make art or have any appreciation of it, these essays will probably seem a bit simplistic to you as well. I can't think of an appropriate audience for this book other than perhaps those people who see artists as weird outsiders or snobs, and who see art as a waste of time (and I don't p Some mildly interesting essays on the place of art in life and the life of particular artists; most of these were artists I'd already heard of or seen works by, so the essays weren't particularly edifying. If you make art or have any appreciation of it, these essays will probably seem a bit simplistic to you as well. I can't think of an appropriate audience for this book other than perhaps those people who see artists as weird outsiders or snobs, and who see art as a waste of time (and I don't personally know anyone like that). Not a bad book, not completely uninteresting, but nothing particularly noteworthy, on the other hand.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis Elkin

    This is a terrific book on all aspects of different types of art. It is provocative especially in the beginning. He discusses "what is beauty." I wrote a whole three pages after thinking about this question he posed. I would never have thought about some of the types of art he brings into the forground. We tend to think of paintings hung on the wall, or sculpture in a garden. He discusses collections and why people collect...just because they have a passion/obsession for an object he concludes. This is a terrific book on all aspects of different types of art. It is provocative especially in the beginning. He discusses "what is beauty." I wrote a whole three pages after thinking about this question he posed. I would never have thought about some of the types of art he brings into the forground. We tend to think of paintings hung on the wall, or sculpture in a garden. He discusses collections and why people collect...just because they have a passion/obsession for an object he concludes. He identifies artists who are not the most popular today but have this passion for what they do. What a ride

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Kimmelman's style of writing make this one of the more readable books on artists. The reader is able to experience both the personalities and the artistic passions of a wide range of artists. But what makes this book more unusual than other contemporary art books is the way Kimmelman interweaves art and life. No longer does one feel that art exists only in a sterile white box environment or in the rarefied sanctuaries of museums. No longer is the artist another contemporary celebrity. Art and ar Kimmelman's style of writing make this one of the more readable books on artists. The reader is able to experience both the personalities and the artistic passions of a wide range of artists. But what makes this book more unusual than other contemporary art books is the way Kimmelman interweaves art and life. No longer does one feel that art exists only in a sterile white box environment or in the rarefied sanctuaries of museums. No longer is the artist another contemporary celebrity. Art and artists exist everywhere, sometimes quietly and anonymously making their ways into the world.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    A fascinating collection of essays with insights into art, artists, and the lessons once can learn from both. The tone is wistful, but not maudlin, and each essay bears reading several times through.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mitch Rogers

    This definitely was not a perfect book. A lot of the chapters felt tedious and boring. His writing gets a bit purple and long-winded at times. But overall, I appreciated the ideas that the author presented.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Carl Denton

    ugh this book was such an uncritical sentimental mess. please don't subject yourself to this

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brynn

    "We can learn, among other things, that a life lived with art in mind might itself be a kind of art." (3) "But having spent much of my own life looking at it, I have come to feel that everything, even the most ordinary daily affair, is enriched by the lessons that can be gleaned from art: that beauty is often where you don't expect to find it; that it is something we may discover and also invent, then reinvent, for ourselves; that the most important things in the world are never as simple as they "We can learn, among other things, that a life lived with art in mind might itself be a kind of art." (3) "But having spent much of my own life looking at it, I have come to feel that everything, even the most ordinary daily affair, is enriched by the lessons that can be gleaned from art: that beauty is often where you don't expect to find it; that it is something we may discover and also invent, then reinvent, for ourselves; that the most important things in the world are never as simple as they seem but that the world is also richer when it declines to abide by comforting formulas." (5) "Bonnard is the great example of an artist who made the most of a relationship that, to outsiders, seemed tragic, but which proves that all relationships are finally unknowable except to those inside them." (11) "And on one level, that's the art's optical point: it's about looking hard enough to recognize, say, that things appear different when seen out of the corner of your eye or squinting into the sun or staring from light into shadow." (13) "As Bonnard proves, a circumscribed world can be made to seem enormous through a rich enough imagination." (20) Bonnard: "It is better to be bored on one's own than with others" (22) "The inherent poignancy in any photograph, whether a Stieglitz or a family memento, entails both the private memory it tries to preserve, by stopping time, and also the hope, however tiny or even unconscious on an amateur's part, that something interesting might result in the expression on the face of a beloved relative or in some other serendipitous gem captured when the camera's shutter is released." (32) "This picture would be less likable, I suspect, if we learned that a professional had planned it, because the amateur's fluke reminds us of a basic fact in life, which is heartening: that art is out there waiting to be captured, the only question being whether we are prepared to recognize it." (45) "Art on one level already may be a state of mind. Of course it is first of all a physical object with which we interact in the moment. But after we have seen a work, what do we take away except a memory of it? And memory is thought, a mental seed planted by the artist, which is reproduced in as many different variations as the number of people in whom the memory exists. What makes art good is partly its power to proliferate as a variable memory, an intangible concept, filtered through individual consciousness." (81) "Be alert to the senses. Elevate the ordinary. Art is about a heightened state of awareness. Try to treat everyday life, or at least parts of it, as you would a work of art." (84) "'Life makes sense not when reason tells you that everything is as it should be,' he wrote. 'Life makes sense when some imponderable and apparently random event confirms your most irrational prejudices about the world." (85) "Collecting is way to bring order to the world, which is what museums, our public collectors, do." (95) "Just as art promises wonderment - an access to a realm beyond the everyday, through the experience of which we may understand the everyday better - a collection of things, even everyday things, promises wonderment, too, as these things become no longer everyday, having been enshrined by a collector." (97) "Connoisseurship entails making distinctions through slow, comparative observation, whether it involves paintings or wooden ducks." (104) Sol LeWitt: "Don't worry about cool. Make your own uncool. Make your own, you own world." (119) "Art, not unlike raising a child, may entail much sacrifice and periods of despair, but, with luck, the effort will produce something that outlives you." (130) "Novelty in creative endeavors usually arises from routine - you have to be familiar with something before you know what is novel." (151) On Giorgio Mornadi: "His message - look slowly and hard at something subtle and small - was simple but turned out to be plenty." (172) "Even via a benign and comfortable form of travel, a modest pilgrimage may restore to the act of looking at art its desired and essential otherness. It can get us back to the root of art as an expression of what's exceptional in life." (177) "On the other hand, Kelley's pictures tell us that the world is full of small miracles. Its basic democratic message is that these miracles - whether they are squashed pats of butter or fluttering flags - are accessible to all of us, at almost any time, if we are just prepared to look for them. This is the message of all great art that celebrates the beauty of ordinary things." (214) "A vivid memory can play a mysterious role in the imagination out of proportion to its significance, like a smell or some notes of music or a breeze that triggers the recollection of a pleasant trip or a childhood game or a lost relative." (215) "Thiebaud invites us to bring a careful discrimination to our appreciation of the world around us...It is typical of an artist like Thiebaud to make the best of this mundane situation - waiting in an airport - and to see art in what might appear to be a waste of time." (223)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jasper

    Intelligent but always lucid

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Tole

    Bought by chance and read avidly after opening to an anecdote on Bonnard. Michael Kimmelman is the art critic with the New York Times as stated at the front of the book, though he now appears to be architecture critic. So a background as an art historian. I've always found it odd that art historians do what they do (pontificate) without being art practitioners. The best ARE practitioners - James Elkins, Julian Stallabrass. Occasionally you get great insightful writing from these fellers that are Bought by chance and read avidly after opening to an anecdote on Bonnard. Michael Kimmelman is the art critic with the New York Times as stated at the front of the book, though he now appears to be architecture critic. So a background as an art historian. I've always found it odd that art historians do what they do (pontificate) without being art practitioners. The best ARE practitioners - James Elkins, Julian Stallabrass. Occasionally you get great insightful writing from these fellers that are non-practitioners but they are just as likely to come out with even bigger arty bollix than yer actual post-modern (student) artiste - portrait, landscape or piss. So it's good to come across one of those art books that hit the right buttons that push me right. I still don't know quite what it's about but he raises some good stuff throughout. It's sprinkled liberally with anecdotes about artists and about Kimmeman's travels. The first chapter looks at Bonnard and his making of his small tight world in which he could function and paint after marrying Marthe and settling in Cannes, and finishes with some stuff on Joan Mitchell in France. The second chapter deals with the art of accident along the way discussing the growth of vernacular photography and uses this to raise important topics which you are not so much lectured through but given the little catalysts to get you thinking. The third chapter entitled 'The Art of Having a Lofty Perspective' starts with Duchamp and the pissoir and beats down the chestnut of 'it's art because I say it's so', whilst giving you a taster of 'taste' and 'beauty' before heading off into the mountains. Performance art and Conceptualism comes under scrutiny in the next where death becomes the culmination and animus of a life's work, along the way discussing Ono, Beuys, and 'zen' boys. For me the best chapter was the penultimate on the Art of Pilgrimage in which Kimmelman uses to examine various 'Landscape' / Earth artists like Turrel and Heizer as well as a very insightful section on Donald Judd. This is an illuminating book, better than most art bollix, and Kimmelman has the ability to give you enough without sounding all high powered and know-it-all. In fact he comes across distinctly as NOT having all the answers and the various chapters lead you to ask good questions and follow lines of enquiry not contained within the actual text. To that extent it does what all good books should do and that is take you on a mind journey and make you ask questions. So it gets a 5 star in my world and a place on the bookshelf for future reference.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Art

    October 2015, update: Michael Kimmelman appears in a new film, chatting with his childhood piano teacher. His appearance brought to mind The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa. And this seemed like a fine time to reread the fine book, which now joins the few titles that live on my shelf titled Read Twice or More. Kimmelman in this book approaches art as an amateur, as someone who does something for the love of it. For example, as an amateur pianist, he entered a piano comp October 2015, update: Michael Kimmelman appears in a new film, chatting with his childhood piano teacher. His appearance brought to mind The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa. And this seemed like a fine time to reread the fine book, which now joins the few titles that live on my shelf titled Read Twice or More. Kimmelman in this book approaches art as an amateur, as someone who does something for the love of it. For example, as an amateur pianist, he entered a piano competition with ninety other contestants who went to Ft Worth just to play ten minutes in front of strangers. Kimmelman and his early piano teacher visit in a cafe for a couple of scenes in Seymour: An Introduction, a documentary that played the film festival circuit this fall. http://www.seymouranintroduction.com Bernstein writes about his music career in Monsters and Angels: Surviving a Career in Music, which also describes a few of the scenes in the film. In his 2002 book, Bernstein describes Kimmelman as a perfect example of the professional-amateur. 2014, original comments and review: A fun read. Michael Kimmelman offers ten essays here that explore people who get lost in the details and routine of their lives. Their attention to detail elevates their work to something artful. Treat yourself. An essay now, an essay later. Amateurism, serendipity, collecting as a creative endeavor, the art of the pilgrimage. The title of each essay begins with this phrase: "The Art of …". I would enjoy reading an eleventh essay by him, "The Art of the Ephemeral." And by that I mean the masterpieces that will disappear or change form in time. Andy Goldsworthy's work with nature comes to mind, explored in the film Rivers and Tides and detailed through his essays in Time. Some people rise above the ordinary ice sculptor, sidewalk chalk artist, pumpkin carver, cake decorator, poster maker, or even street photographer who can capture the fleeting ephemeral moment. I enjoy the ephemeral arts, so I may write that essay someday. Where does that talent and inspiration come from? Trained? Untrained? Art for art's sake. I like the way this book feels. It feels like a proper book, a Penguin paperback with that high-quality Penguin paper, which gives us a good work that does not need to fluff itself up with that thicker, rougher paper.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Ann

    An interesting set of meditations on art and life, the basic premise being that creating art requires effort and risk, but appreciating art involves a "heightened sense of awareness," like the wonder exhibited by children. I enjoyed reading the profiles of artists and collectors, but would have appreciated photos of more works described by Kimmelman. Some quotes that I liked: During the last century, the history of amateurism in America, whether it entailed snapping photographs or painting pictur An interesting set of meditations on art and life, the basic premise being that creating art requires effort and risk, but appreciating art involves a "heightened sense of awareness," like the wonder exhibited by children. I enjoyed reading the profiles of artists and collectors, but would have appreciated photos of more works described by Kimmelman. Some quotes that I liked: During the last century, the history of amateurism in America, whether it entailed snapping photographs or painting pictures or tickling the ivories...increasingly centered on labor-saving strategies to placate our inherent laziness and to guarantee our satisfaction, a promise...that should be antithetical to the premise of making art, which presumes effort and risk. "Life makes sense not when reason tells you that everything is as it should be," [author's friend Alex] wrote. "Life makes sense when some imponderable and apparently random event confirms your most irrational prejudices about the world." But conventions change. They are fluid, like taste. And convention is another word for habit, which is also a word for routine. There are of course many kinds of routines when it comes to art. One is a way of seeing, which shifts over time along with the rest of human culture, good artists hastening the alterations in our habits of looking. Another kind of routine is a way of working, which most good artists practice because it helps them to see more clearly where they are leading us. [Ellsworth Kelly's] pictures tell us that the world is full of small miracles. Its basic democratic message is that these miracles...are accessible to all of us, at almost any time, if we are just prepared to look for them. This is the message of all great art that celebrates the beauty of ordinary things. It counsels patience and calm. Heroic artists like Michelangelo or Picasso could conjure up gods and heroes and mythological worlds, which might temporarily distract us from reality, stir our emotions, and elevate us into a higher realm. But it is the ability of more circumscribed artists to slow our systems, calm our minds, and show us reality as we have probably not considered it that inspired Marcel Proust to say, "Great painters initiate us into a knowledge and love of the external." [Wayne] Theibaud's work is not about a perfect world. It is about the fact that the world never was and still isn't perfect, except perhaps the little imaginary part of it to which we can briefly retreat in these paintings and thereby glimpse the way all things ought to be.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Kimmelman is an art critic for the New York Times, and The Accidental Masterpiece collects some of his essays – interestingly enough, not all about art and artists. At least, not directly. Indeed, if there is a single theme running through these essays, it is obsession. The first essay is about Bonnard, but more specifically, it is about his obsession with his wife Marthe. Later in the book, we encounter an essay on a man who collected lightbulbs – by the time he passed away in 2002, his self-c Kimmelman is an art critic for the New York Times, and The Accidental Masterpiece collects some of his essays – interestingly enough, not all about art and artists. At least, not directly. Indeed, if there is a single theme running through these essays, it is obsession. The first essay is about Bonnard, but more specifically, it is about his obsession with his wife Marthe. Later in the book, we encounter an essay on a man who collected lightbulbs – by the time he passed away in 2002, his self-created museum possessed some 75,000 of them. Sometimes the obsessions are more abstract, such as Ray Johnson’s pursuit of art in those side niches of life(see, for example, his exploration of mail art). Although the point is never explicitly made in the book, it seems to me that the book Kimmelman is pushing back against a world that, particularly in the arts, is become increasingly interdisciplinary. Indeed, he seems to argue that, though being a jack of all trades has its advantages, there’s still something wonderful about following a single idea to its logical conclusion – and to then keep going.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eveline Chao

    I loved the first essay in this SO much that it made all the other ones pale in comparison. For that reason, it's hard for me to figure out how much I liked this book overall. I guess I would say that judging it as a *book* I thought that some of the essays could have been organized a tiny bit better and that I wish the writer gave us just a tad bit more of himself. There's something a little bit removed about his tone, somehow, even in scenes where he's actually there IN the scene speaking abou I loved the first essay in this SO much that it made all the other ones pale in comparison. For that reason, it's hard for me to figure out how much I liked this book overall. I guess I would say that judging it as a *book* I thought that some of the essays could have been organized a tiny bit better and that I wish the writer gave us just a tad bit more of himself. There's something a little bit removed about his tone, somehow, even in scenes where he's actually there IN the scene speaking about himself and the things he's doing. But on the other hand, judging it as a guide to thinking about art, or more accurately as a jumping-off point for one's own thoughts and approach to art, it was pretty great. Or to put it another way, the editor in me would have pushed the author a little harder during the editorial process, the reader and art-seeker in me will totally reread this and has also added his previous book to my "to buy" list.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cecile

    Boy oh boy, did I heart this book. Written by the chief art critic for the New York Times, it is less an examination of art than an examination of how to live artistically. The chapters cover a variety of topics, including the lives of particular artists and the latent art that suffuses compulsive collecting (my favorite!). Mainly, I loved it because it is more inspirational that any self-declared inspirational text. Seeing how others view art as life and life as art made me want to run out and t Boy oh boy, did I heart this book. Written by the chief art critic for the New York Times, it is less an examination of art than an examination of how to live artistically. The chapters cover a variety of topics, including the lives of particular artists and the latent art that suffuses compulsive collecting (my favorite!). Mainly, I loved it because it is more inspirational that any self-declared inspirational text. Seeing how others view art as life and life as art made me want to run out and take photographs of everything. Truly, it supported my notion that absolutely anything (pez museums, morning light, misspelled graffiti, forgotten postcards) can, when you really see, be sublime.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Kimmelman is one of the most likable, curious, open-minded art-writers we have. Instead of a pretentious reviewer, he's a discusser, and discusses some great topics: Bob Ross and amateurism, a guy who has collected thousands of light bulbs, how what we find beautiful is often a conditioned response, Albert C. Barnes (a guy who made a fortune on antiseptic, spend the fortune on famous and unfamous art, and left it all to a school when he died), the value of originals in a time of mass reproductio Kimmelman is one of the most likable, curious, open-minded art-writers we have. Instead of a pretentious reviewer, he's a discusser, and discusses some great topics: Bob Ross and amateurism, a guy who has collected thousands of light bulbs, how what we find beautiful is often a conditioned response, Albert C. Barnes (a guy who made a fortune on antiseptic, spend the fortune on famous and unfamous art, and left it all to a school when he died), the value of originals in a time of mass reproduction, Wayne Thiebaud's gumball machines, and the idea of elevating the ordinary and seeing anew. And, there is a great essay about Charlotte Salomon, whom I have an intimate relationship with, even though she was murdered by Nazis way back when.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    This is a book of observations about observing; observing art in all of its multitudinous forms and the manner in which one can enrich and reward themselves simply by giving attention. I returned to this over a decade after having first read it and I must say, it is one of my favorite and most treasured reads. The book is organized into a series of essays that examine art from a myriad of colorful angles, like a prism held to the light and turned with benign consideration. My humble suggestion i This is a book of observations about observing; observing art in all of its multitudinous forms and the manner in which one can enrich and reward themselves simply by giving attention. I returned to this over a decade after having first read it and I must say, it is one of my favorite and most treasured reads. The book is organized into a series of essays that examine art from a myriad of colorful angles, like a prism held to the light and turned with benign consideration. My humble suggestion is that it best be savored slowly, one chapter per day accompanied by a good cup, in the early morning hours when one's wits are stretching to greet the day, the house is still, and the sense of what is possible or what lies ahead is coiled and hungry.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nicolien

    "It almost seems odd to talk about the sublime today. We are programmed now to expect awe in certain circumstances, and are therefore doomed to be disappointed when, inevitably, we don't feel it. It is the disappointment that many tourists experience when they go see the Mona Lisa, a sublime painting, encased behind protective glass. This is because when nothing is truly strange or foreign any longer, everything having been predigested, we then demand to be shocked, shock being an experience tha "It almost seems odd to talk about the sublime today. We are programmed now to expect awe in certain circumstances, and are therefore doomed to be disappointed when, inevitably, we don't feel it. It is the disappointment that many tourists experience when they go see the Mona Lisa, a sublime painting, encased behind protective glass. This is because when nothing is truly strange or foreign any longer, everything having been predigested, we then demand to be shocked, shock being an experience that still seems genuine to us. Thus we mistake shock for awe." (p.68) ""Life makes sense not when reason tells you that everything is as it should be," he wrote. "Life makes sense when some imponderable and apparently random event confirms your most irrational prejudices about the world."" (p.85)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas A.

    When asked "What do you do for a living?", I tend to answer "I live." As pompous as this sounds, I derived this answer here from Kimmleman's mind altering book. To be be creative, or to live a life of art - one does not need to pursue it as a career or even participate in creative endeavors. Rather, life itself is an art form. "We can learn, that a life lived with art in mind might itself be a kind of art." - Kimmelman "The Beatiful Is a Promise of Happiness" - Stendhal Basic Reasons to Make Art: 1) When asked "What do you do for a living?", I tend to answer "I live." As pompous as this sounds, I derived this answer here from Kimmleman's mind altering book. To be be creative, or to live a life of art - one does not need to pursue it as a career or even participate in creative endeavors. Rather, life itself is an art form. "We can learn, that a life lived with art in mind might itself be a kind of art." - Kimmelman "The Beatiful Is a Promise of Happiness" - Stendhal Basic Reasons to Make Art: 1) Comfort Your Ego 2) Area of Authority 3) You Become Your Own MASTER Plus, Kimmelman points out the greatest inspiration of life and art Bob Ross.

  28. 5 out of 5

    srhnhm

    i like it when books i'm reading seem to mirror life. I read this coincident to a roadtrip in the southwest. "The Art of Having a Lofty Perspective" -- chapter three, essay on the fluctuating opinion in art's history on whether or not nature is beautiful -- came fantastically timed after a rainy, miserable, questionably worth-it scenic mountain hike in Zion. "The Art of the Pilgrimage" spanned the few days driving between Marfa, TX and Walter de Maria's Lightning Field. It's well written (author i like it when books i'm reading seem to mirror life. I read this coincident to a roadtrip in the southwest. "The Art of Having a Lofty Perspective" -- chapter three, essay on the fluctuating opinion in art's history on whether or not nature is beautiful -- came fantastically timed after a rainy, miserable, questionably worth-it scenic mountain hike in Zion. "The Art of the Pilgrimage" spanned the few days driving between Marfa, TX and Walter de Maria's Lightning Field. It's well written (author is the nytimes' chief art critic), which in itself is such a relief when it comes to nonfiction nowadays.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Through a series of introspective essays, Michael Kimmelman speaks on art - what it means to do art, what art is, what a life of art is, and much more. Kimmelman paints the portraits of artists without the typical prentention of art critics. From Pierre Bonnard and his unlikely relationship with his muse and lover Marthe to Frank Hurley, the photographer whose art thrives on life-threatening situations, I learned about art, but also about the artist behind. About the life of art, but also about Through a series of introspective essays, Michael Kimmelman speaks on art - what it means to do art, what art is, what a life of art is, and much more. Kimmelman paints the portraits of artists without the typical prentention of art critics. From Pierre Bonnard and his unlikely relationship with his muse and lover Marthe to Frank Hurley, the photographer whose art thrives on life-threatening situations, I learned about art, but also about the artist behind. About the life of art, but also about the art of life (hence the title). All in all, this was a quick read that I found very interesting. Though it becomes hard to follow at points, I never lost interest. [4/5]

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Charchian

    This is a terrific book on all aspects of different types of art. It is provocative especially in the beginning. He discusses "what is beauty." I wrote a whole three pages after thinking about this question he posed. I would never have thought about some of the types of art he brings into the forground. We tend to think of paintings hung on the wall, or sculpture in a garden. He discusses collections and why people collect...just because they have a passion/obsession for an object he concludes. This is a terrific book on all aspects of different types of art. It is provocative especially in the beginning. He discusses "what is beauty." I wrote a whole three pages after thinking about this question he posed. I would never have thought about some of the types of art he brings into the forground. We tend to think of paintings hung on the wall, or sculpture in a garden. He discusses collections and why people collect...just because they have a passion/obsession for an object he concludes. He identifies artists who are not the most popular today but have this passion for what they do. What a ride.

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