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Encountering a work of contemporary art, a viewer might ask, “What does it mean?” “Is it really art?” and “Why does it cost so much?” These are not the questions that E. H. Gombrich set out to answer in his magisterial The Story of Art. Contemporary art seems totally unlike what came before it, departing from the road map supplied by Raphael, Dürer, Rembrandt, and other European masters. In The Story of Contemporary Art, Tony Godfrey picks up where Gombrich left off, offering a lively introduction to contemporary art that stretches from Andy Warhol's Brillo boxes to Marina Abramović's performance art to today's biennale circuit and million-dollar auctions. Godfrey, a curator and writer on contemporary art, chronicles important developments in pop art, minimalism, conceptualism, installation art, performance art, and beyond.
Godfrey's narrative, lavishly illustrated, traces a series of debates over what art is or should be: object versus sculpture, painting versus conceptual, local versus global, gallery versus wider world. He presents multiple voices—not only critics, theorists, curators, and collectors but also artists and audiences. Key to Godfrey's account is the upending of the once widespread perception that art is made almost exclusively by white men from North America and Europe. The Story of Contemporary Art is an essential guide to this radical transformation.