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Classic review: The Accidental Masterpiece

An inspiring meditation on art by Michael Kimmelman, chief art critic of the New York Times.

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[The Monitor occasionally republishes material from its archives. This review originally ran on Aug. 30, 2005.] The evening after I finished reading The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa I went to the grocery store, and - expecting only my usual Monday night shopping trip - had a transcendent experience instead.

Food had never before seemed so lovely. The gentle colors and curves of the apricots moved me profoundly and I bought eggplant we didn't really need just because I couldn't resist its dark-purple sheen and bulbous forms. Back out in the parking lot I almost gasped at the dusky tones of the sky and was stunned to note - for the first time ever - the remarkable shapes that cars have.

Be prepared. This is the kind of thing that will happen to you when you pick up this book by Michael Kimmelman, chief art critic of The New York Times. Your backyard will look like a museum and the subway platform will seem oddly inspirational. What you will find is that art is everywhere. And what could be bad about a discovery like that?

Kimmelman has spent most of his life looking at art. As a result, he writes in the book's introduction, he has come to feel that "everything, even the most ordinary daily affair, is enriched by the lessons that can be gleaned from art...." His book is full of anecdotes that are alternately charming, fascinating, and awesome about the ways art is made, the purposes it serves, and, ultimately, the contribution it makes to society.


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