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Endorsement: Ways of Seeing

Endorsement: Ways of Seeing

By: Oliver Horton

Books are back.

Look up from your phone and you’ll see them clutched on the Underground, read in coffee shops, tucked into handbags. Real, actual paper book sales are up; daft, digital e-reader sales are down. Quid pro quo, you are in the market for a book. And to fill the vacuum, we humbly suggest Ways of Seeing by John Berger. This book is a takedown of established, traditional thought on art. We learn that Art Benefits the (male) Establishment, that most Art is Sexist, that most Art is Rubbish. We are warned away from the pompous vocab of art criticism, which cloaks so-so works in mystifying language and ultimately helps inflate the market price. Published in 1972 as a companion to the BBC television series of the same name, Ways of Seeing is extraordinarily prescient: an eloquent unpicking of selfie society and nudie empowerment written 40 years before Instagram. The book is presented as a series of essays, several of which are entirely pictorial. John Berger, an art critic and novelist, died early in 2017, but Ways of Seeing is testimony to an acute and compassionate thinker, whose insights encourage us to question everything.

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