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Believing Is Seeing: Creating the Culture of Art Paperback – January 1, 1995

3.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Why are the paleolithic Venus of Willendorf, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescoes, and Marcel Duchamp's ready-made urinal all considered works of art? Why, strictly speaking, is a Cindy Sherman photograph more "art-like" than a Da Vinci portrait? How did the painters and sculptors of the Renaissance see their creations? And who decides what art is today? In the tradition of Marshall McLuhan and John Berger, this learned and deliciously subversive book gives us a new way of seeing our artistic heritage. Believing Is Seeing is a work of multicultural scope and glittering intelligence that bridges the gulf between classical Japanese painting and the films of Spike Lee, between high theory and pop culture. Probing beyond the rhetorical surface of standard art histories and drawing on a panoramic array of illustrative material, Mary Anne Staniszewski throws a fresh light on individual works and the often mystifying criteria by which they are valued.

About the Author

. Mary Anne Staniszewski is an Associate Professor in the Department of the Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and author of "The Power of Display: A History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art" (MIT Press) and, during the past twenty-five years, has overseen or contributed to various Exit Art publications and projects.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1st edition (January 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140168249
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140168242
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #217,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Mary Anne Staniszewski's "Believing is Seeing" is a clearly written, carefully illustrated, thought provoking overview of the meaning of "Art". Distilled from introductory lectures on contemporary art, culture and critical theory delivered at the Rhode Island School of Design more than a decade ago, "Believing is Seeing" provides a useful counterpoint to mainstream art history texts by challenging traditional, transhistorical views of aesthetic value.
Appropriately subtitled "Creating the Culture of Art", Staniszewski's book demonstrates that Art is something "that has a specific history and belongs to a particular era." What our culture generally calls "Art" is an invention of the past two hundred years. Thus, modern culture has appropriated the paintings, frescoes, sculptures, and artifacts of earlier times and cultures (where they had historically specific meanings) and labelled them "Art". Modern culture applies this label even though the original creators of these representations and objects would not have regarded their creations as Art in the way we commonly use the term.
The task of defining and identifying Art in contemporary Western society is largely a function of the institutional structures--the museums, galleries, auction houses, and publications--that create the culture of Art. In this way, Marcel Duchamp can mount a urinal on a pedestal and this plumbing fixture becomes "Art", acquires meaning and value, through validation by these institutional arbiters of the Art world. Rejecting essentialism, Staniszewski argues that aesthetic value and meaning are socially constructed, the products of a particular historical moment and culture.
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Format: Paperback
From Michelangelo to Madonna, when it comes to making sense of art, Staniszewski explains it all.

Whether you are a student or just someone perplexed by the money, attitudes, or direction that the art world takes, I could not recommend a more readable yet comprehensive beginning.

Over half of the well-designed book is a panorama of cleverly chosen pictures, but the text is a clear and simply put construction of contemporary ideas of art history.
A term that is especially bandied about these days like a crowbar is post-modernism, but without much explanation. After reading this book, I am now a true believer (and hopefully a truer see-er).

It has been hard to keep this book out of the hands of friends. I may have to order a case to give out as gifts!
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Format: Paperback
This is a basic book, nothing overly challenging here. The concept is well explained in general terms, but then repeated far too much in the manner that there was nothing else to say yet imprudently it continues. At points I was saying to myself "get on already".
The text assumes you have a knowledge of art history while the illustrations hold your hand on the way through.
The amount of text is slim with general statements and no real depth. The illustrations are plentiful. The result is like a powerpoint presentation in book form.

Is it worth a read? Well, yes it is. The ideas contained within are worth exploring and understanding. Personally I agree with most of the concept.

I am glad I bought it used and not at the full price.
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By A Customer on March 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
First of all, I find that most of the reviews of this book are one star because the readers didnt agree with Staniszewski's ideas, however they ignored how well written this book is. She takes the way we typically view "art" and shows us how fraudulent it is. In doing so she challenges not only are view of art, but also our view of the world around us. Even if you dont like her ideas its no reason not to acknowledge the intelligence with which she has written this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Classic work of critical art history based on the author's dynamic lectures at RISD. The death of "World Survey 101"! Decades later, this book is still engaging, sharp, and highly readable.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brings to fore an evaluation of art as it exists today rather than how the subject was thought of years ago. Refreshing, knowledgable.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
basic info, fast and easy to read. If you have not had any art history/theory is a good beginning. Not what I thought it'd be.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Different view of the meaning of art... I had to get it for a class I am attending.
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