Painting by Numbers:
Komar and Melamid's scientific guide to art

JoAnn Wypijewski (editor)

University of California Press 1999
A book review by Danny Yee © 1999
In 1993 Russian emigres Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid began a project in which 1001 adults in the United States were interviewed about their tastes in art. Based on the responses and on public forums held around the country, Komar and Melamid created their vision of America's "most wanted" and "most unwanted" paintings. The former turned out to be a realistic blue landscape, with wild animals and people, on a large canvas...

Even those not into art criticism or contemporary art may enjoy Painting by Numbers, a book about the Most Wanted project. Komar and Melamid themselves are just fun, managing to be provocative and unconventional without being incomprehensible or pretentious, and the project is of relevance outside the art world, for disciplines such as anthropology and cultural studies.

Painting by Numbers contains three major pieces. The first is an interview with Komar and Melamid, in which they talk about themselves, the Soviet Union and the United States, and art generally, as well as about the Most Wanted project. In the second JoAnn Wypijewski writes about the public participation in and response to the project. And in the third art critic Arthur C. Danto provides a more traditional essay on Komar and Melamid and America's Most Wanted.

Also included are the questions and results from the United States survey, as well as the summary results from similar polls carried out in other countries — China, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Kenya, Russia, Turkey, and the Ukraine. The illustrations in Painting by Numbers include Komar and Melamid's renditions of the Most and Least Wanted Paintings for all the countries surveyed, as well as others of their works. And the last sixty pages contain a full demographic breakdown of the results from the United States poll. (The more interesting bits of this are covered in the text, so this could have been relegated to a web site without loss.)

April 1999

External links:
- buy from or
- Komar and Melamid's Most Wanted Paintings
- details at University of California Press
Related reviews:
- books about art + art history
- books published by University of California Press
%T Painting by Numbers
%S Komar and Melamid's scientific guide to art
%E Wypijewski, JoAnn
%I University of California Press
%D 1999
%O paperback, colour photographs
%G ISBN 0520218612
%P 205pp