"Brimming with examples from across the artistic spectrum, this is the perfect primer to hook future art enthusiasts." Publishers Weekly
Interested in art but feel under-informed? Curious but afraid you might not “get” it? Already a fan and wishing to immerse yourself in a fun, engaging, informative and informed read that will refresh and top up your Art History 101 and Introduction to Art courses from college?
The 12-Hour Art Expert: Everything You Need to Know about Art in a Dozen Masterpieces avoids the common approach of throwing hundreds of images at a reader and expecting them to learn from and memorize them all.
Instead, the book will guide its readers through a brief series of masterpieces of Western art—from cave paintings to sharks in formaldehyde. This book twelve chapters teach readers about art, the art trade, and art history in a thorough (though concise) fashion.
Each chapter is linked to one notable masterpiece, with references to others, giving readers a fixed, digestible number of objects that they will get to know in depth, and which they can use as a lens to understand the thousands of other, related objects that they might encounter in the future.
Museums can be daunting, and art presents a strange new language, one that certainly intrigues but is often intimidating and foreign. This book, written by one of the world’s best-known art historians uses entertaining stories to break down intimidating barriers and invites readers of all ages for a one-stop immersion into art.
Noah Charney is an internationally best-selling author of more than a dozen books and a professor of art history specializing in art crime. His novel, The Art Thief, was a bestseller in five countries and is translated into 17 languages. His The Art of Forgery, Stealing the Mystic Lamb and Slovenology were international bestsellers. His book Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Charney is now a professor at University of Ljubljana in Slovenia.
List of Figures
1: Art is for All
2: Is It Even Art? Defining Art and the Human Need for Creativity
3: Art as Object and Technique
4: Find Crivelli’s Pickle. Saint Spotting 101, Iconography and the Covert Language of Art
5: The Isms Cheat Sheet in 30 Paintings
6: The “Complete”(ish) History of Sculpture
7: When Bad Things Happen to Good Art: Conservation, Loss and Crime
8: A Digital Light in the Forest: Hi-Tech Art History Reveals Secrets
9: What Would Freud Say? Art, Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience
10: Art and Value: The Art Market, Digitalization and How to Shop for Art
11: Art History as Mystery: New Discoveries (and What Happens When the Experts Get it Wrong)
12: The Future of Art
Notes on Sources
About the Author
'You do not need extensive training to understand art, much less to enjoy it,' asserts art historian Charney in this enlightening crash course. Determined to buck the 'intimidation problem' that’s plagued the art world for centuries, Charney moves through 12 chapters organized around a specific masterpiece—from Bernini’s 17th century Tomb of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni to Marcel Duchamp’s subversive Fountain (1917)—to offer readers an amiable tour through art history, terminology, and styles, as well as the relationship between the price of an artwork and its desirability:'an equation for the value of art: value = perceived (rarity + authenticity + demand).' Charney also revisits his deep fascination with authenticity, dissecting the fuss around Leonardo da Vinci’s famed works—which, he writes, have become a 'cultural currency'—to illustrate how art connoisseurship has engendered a thriving forgery industry. While he writes exaltingly of the art world, Charney keeps his narrative refreshingly grounded, empowering lay readers to better appreciate and understand works of art, but to also trust their instincts: 'Don’t be afraid to call ‘hogwash’ (or its synonym, BS) on artworks that you’ve given an honest chance.... I do it all the time.' Brimming with examples from across the artistic spectrum, this is the perfect primer to hook future art enthusiasts.
Art History 101 was never like this! Instead of the usual catalog of images and dates to memorize, here is a wide-ranging and entertaining overview of Western art. Charney uses a dozen masterpieces as landmarks for an amazing journey through art history. He is an excellent guide, passionate, knowledgeable, and witty. Chapter titles include “The -isms Cheat Sheet in Thirty Paintings” and “When Bad Things Happen to Good Art: Conservation and Loss.” Woven throughout are explanations of art techniques, movements, and forms as well as engaging discussions of art criticism over time. Sharp color reproductions are provided for the dozen masterpieces, which include Van Eyck’s Adoration of the Magi, Gentileschi’s Judith and Holofernes, and Duchamp’s Fountain, as well as images of other, related works. Charney achieves his goal “to make art as accessible, understandable, enjoyable, and intriguing as possible for as many people as are willing to be open-minded and consider engaging with it.” Anyone with even the slightest interest in art will be hooked by this fun master class in masterpieces.
Art historian Noah Charney describes himself as “a proponent of making art feel accessible to anyone who is willing to meet it halfway,” and The 12-Hour Art Expert accomplishes that mission via an anecdotal, conversational approach that explains art history and various artistic movements in an informative, fun manner. Charney covers ample material in clever ways…. And the book goes beyond art history to incorporate Charney’s specific expertise in the history of art theft, with an informative overview that discusses both famous heists and the processes used to determine a work’s authenticity. There’s a fascinating discussion of how advanced technology led to better restoration techniques, including identifying portions of paintings added later, or original artists’ contributions obscured by subsequent restorations. There’s even a timely discussion of what NFTs and other trends in art might mean for the future. Throughout, Charney allows that specific pieces or styles might not appeal to every art appreciator. Still, The 12-Hour Art Expert is intended to serve as an introduction for anyone who wants to learn more about art, and it covers a wealth of information in a genial, accessible way.
This book is -- dare I say it -- a masterpiece. Noah Charney is my favorite guide to the world of fine art. He makes it accessible, fascinating and fun -- and shows us why fine art is still relevant in the age of Tik Tok.
Through 12 chapters, Dr Charney introduces us to the basic terminology, stylistic periods and ways of interpreting fine art from prehistory to the present day. This book introduces readers to the art market, crime, restoration issues, and the myriad errors inevitable in any profession, especially one so subject to interpretation as the study of art. This “handbook” intended for the lay readers is all that and more—it can be an indispensable vade mecum for professionals and even experienced art historians.
The book is a stimulating read and an inspiring contribution to art history mainly because Charney’s view is original, entertaining and brilliantly witty. His knowledge is anchored in a wealth of practical experience, a broad view of the profession and deep reflection. He replays in fascinating ways the various fundamental ideas of art, which he explains in a way easy to follow for today’s reader. Charney skillfully navigates between standard art and pop culture, offers pictorial comparisons between pagan gods and martial arts, Plato and Sci-Fi movies, artists like Michelangelo and Raphael and today’s top athletes and rock stars, compares self-portraits and selfies… He uses an approachable contemporary vocabulary, talking about influencers and six-packs. He also makes excellent arguments with his unmistakable pedagogical gift.
The book challenges the reader to master the basic skills of viewing and understanding fine arts in the shortest time—just twelve hours—how to look, understand and evaluate. The goal is fully achieved. The fresh language and engaging voice will impress even the most demanding reader.
In the day of our condensed attention spans, I couldn’t think of a better tool to bone up on art history than The 12-Hour Art Expert, a read so exhilarating you won’t need anywhere near the amount of time allotted in the title to get through. Even a jaded art fool like myself still found something fresh and a new to learn. An informed and informing read.
Noah Charney delivers a particularly accessible and thoughtful whistle-stop tour of the aesthetic development of the last 43000 years of human creative production. Written in a personable and often humorous way, 12-Hour Art Expert successfully approaches the creative history of human endeavour through a judicious selection of case studies that disentangle often complex art historical concepts and empower the reader to gain a clear understanding of our collective and evolving cultural identities.
Deliberately separating itself from the often-fusty realm of traditional art historical scholarship, this book is both a reflective advancement of prevailing academic discourses, and an unaffected departure point for those looking towards an accessible entry point to survey the history of human creativity. The complexities and historical significance of cultural objects are interpreted and presented rigorously and digestibly, and the often-perplexing world of art historical movements, styles and terminology is transcribed and interpreted in a faithful and entertaining way.
Within the text, Charney manages to embed and reaffirm important concepts, dates and protagonists within the mind of the reader, equipping them with the semantic and theoretical tools to confidently engage with both familiar, and non-familiar, cultural artefacts.
50 color photographs on glossy paper
1/13/22, Choice: This title was included in a roundup of “Forthcoming Titles in Art & Architecture 2022.”
7/11/22, Foreword Reviews: This title was featured as Foreword’s Book of the Day.
7/22/22, Foreword Reviews: Noah Charney did an author Q&A about the book.