Will Gompertz feels like an old friend, not because I have ever met him, but because I have grown up with his inciteful and interesting contributions as the BBC’s arts editor. You can only imagine my excitement when I attended his Fringe show this year. I was disappointed when entered Ermintrude studio, however, to see that exam papers littered the lecture hall, the very room in which I have history lectures. There would be no insider quips about Gompertz’s life in the art world in this show, this was an hour long lecture about modern art.
Gompertz is a natural performer and a brilliant teacher.
Double Art History: The Sequel is billed as an impromptu lecture and it could not be a more fitting location. I was, I’ll admit, hoping for more from Gompertz than history, but that was my own mistake because what I got in the end was just as inciteful and interesting as Gompertz’s BBC appearances.
The show is full to bursting with modern art history facts, as Gompertz walks his audience through Impressionism, Expressionism, Surrealism, Dadaism and conceptual art. He explains how the urinal is the symbol of modern art and why Emin’s unmade bed is worth millions and yours just needs to be made. Well known examples from Monet to Manet are projected on a quirky PowerPoint, which assists Gompertz narrative throughout. There is even an exam at the end to ensure we’re all motivated to learn. Less known examples of art, such as the work of African American artist Theaster Gates mean that even those well versed in the art world will leave with a fresh perspective.
Even if you attended Gompertz show already full of art history knowledge, he is a brilliant entertainer. Indeed, this is the much awaited sequel to Gompertz Fringe show from ten years ago and one can see why he is back. Moments of audience interaction provide ample humour and, although he’s our teacher, there’s no danger of being told off by Gompertz friendly demeanour.
Gompertz is somewhat limited by the lecture format and one can only imagine what a more creative concept would have allowed him to do. The show ends with a book signing and Gompertz makes sure we know that if we liked the show, we’ll love the book. Indeed, when he reads an except, his potential as an actor is revealed to great success.
Gompertz exudes the confidence of a well-heeled performer and has the kind of stage presence that I wish my teachers had had more of. He is a natural performer and a brilliant teacher with original insights into the art world that go a long way in explaining why he’s got the dream job of many.