As artists push further and further beyond their, and our, comfort zones, this book aims to help decipher the bizarre and often intimidating aspects of modern and contemporary art by exploring twenty works of art in terms of seven ‘keys’. History, biography, aesthetics, experience, theory, criticism and the market represent conventional ‘modes of existence’ for every artwork discussed, but in a fascinating variety of ways. Simon Morley shows how twenty well-known but little-understood works of art can serve as useful springboards not only for understanding each other, but also for appreciating works by the same artists, and from the wider world of art in general.
Rather than proceeding on the basis of familiar art ‘movements’ or ‘-isms’, Morley focuses on just twenty individual works of art, from Matisse’s The Red Studio to Doris Salcedo’s Untitled. Representing a variety of media, styles, subjects and intentions, being the creations of men and women of different periods and places, coming from disparate social and ethnic backgrounds, these works show a rich diversity in modern and contemporary art.