This visual puzzle will give hours of enjoyment to patient readers who enjoy concentrating hard.
The book opens on a young maintenance worker at the National Gallery of Art, who asks the reader for help tracking gallery ghosts–spirits of famous artists who sneak around at night overlaying details from their paintings onto other artists’ paintings. The book’s clever design literally splits the pages horizontally so the reader can flip simultaneously through the real paintings and the mischievously modified ones. At the bottom are originals, all real works from the National Gallery; at the top, the same paintings in a different order, slightly altered by the ghosts’ tinkering. The quality of reproduction is good and will attract some readers previously unfamiliar with fine art, but the main thrust here is the search for alterations. Since each change has been made with a fine and subtle touch, most can’t be found by knowing an original painting’s style or visual gesture. Rather, the search is more like a complicated version of Where’s Waldo?. Unlike traditional â€œWhat’s Wrong with This Picture?” puzzles, these impish changes aren’t glaring in either content or aesthetics. Luckily, a beautifully clear answer key sits at the end. A medal awaits the ghost who wreaks the most havoc, so Nilsen provides a scorecard for sleuths to keep count of how many changes each artist makes. The only technical flaw is that no total number is given per painting, so readers won’t know when to stop searching a given painting for changes. Otherwise, the proportion of women artists (two out of 24) featured is disappointing. Further, the artists’ biographies, and the poetic blurbs that accompany their paintings, are sappily and deceptively first-person. However, most puzzlers won’t care about those brief texts while they scrutinize the art.
Not for the easily frustrated, but a learning experience for art-oriented visual detectives.