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How to See

Looking, Talking, and Thinking about Art


David Salle (Author)

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A masterclass in contemporary art by one of the pre-eminent painters of our time.

In How to See, David Salle explores how art works and how it moves us, informs us and challenges us. This internationally renowned painter’s incisive essay collection illuminates the work of many of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Engaging with a wide range of Salle’s friends and contemporaries—from painters to conceptual artists such as Jeff Koons, John Baldessari, Roy Lichtenstein and Alex Katz—How to See explores not only the multilayered personalities of the artists themselves but also the distinctive character of their oeuvres.

Salle writes with humour and verve, replacing the jargon of art theory with precise and evocative descriptions that help the reader develop a personal and intuitive engagement with art. The result is a master class on how to see with an artist’s eye.


“If John Berger’s Ways of Seeing is a classic of art criticism, looking at the ‘what’ of art, then David Salle’s How to See is the artist’s reply, a brilliant series of reflections on how artists think when they make their work. The ‘how’ of art has perhaps never been better explored.” — Salman Rushdie

“David Salle’s brilliant canvases changed everything, and now his luminescent eye and voice have married in a book that is destined to alter not only how we look at art, but the language we use to describe it.” — Hilton Als

“David Salle is widely known as one of our most daring and intelligent painters, but he is also an eloquent critic. How to See is a marvel of incisive and intimate observation.” — Deborah Solomon

“David Salle’s thoughtful, intelligent, beautifully written essays inspire us to think about, and look at, art in wholly new ways... How to See is a pure pleasure to read.” — Francine Prose

“David Salle writes about art with a joyous lucidity that is both bracing—nothing, absolutely nothing, escapes his notice—and utterly disarming. He guides his readers through the complex world of contemporary art with a rare generosity of spirit, a dazzling skill at description, and a radiant honesty that are as challenging as they are irresistible.” — Ingrid Rowland

“David Salle subtly and persuasively reminds us that all art, even the most seemingly recalcitrant, is there to be looked at, and that what artists do is, exactly, teach us how to see.” — Adam Gopnik

“These perceptive, far-ranging essays are drawn from deep knowledge and experience—reading this book feels like having a conversation about art with the smartest person in the room.” — Emma Cline

“Lovely to read… [How to See] is serious but never solemn, alert to pleasure, a boulevardier’s crisp stroll through the visual world.” — Dwight Garner

“The book is scrupulously positive, but Salle is at his most engaging when he is wrestling with mixed feelings about an artist’s work… How to See makes a strong case that the best, most enjoyable way to understand art is simply to look at it, a lot, and then talk about it, preferably with friends.” — Roger White, The New York Times