TO EXPLAIN why John Berger was such a great writer about art, it’s easiest to start with questions of boredom. What first struck me, when I saw the classic 1972 TV series Ways of Seeing and read the book adapted from it, was the way Berger made boring old paintings of men in ruffs look interesting. He was able to do thisand so much morebecause he was the least boring writer on art there has ever been. Think, on the other hand, of that lavish catalogue accompanying the wonderful show of whatever at the museum of wherever. You really wanted a souvenir of your visit, but when you looked at the catalogue’s essays, your heartwell, it didn’t exactly soar, did it? You bought the book anyway and lugged it home. But that sensation, as you slit the shrink-wrapwas it a tremble of anticipated pleasure or a faint gurgle of dread? Either way, the feeling when you got to
Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.
Not registered for artforum.com?
SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*
* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.