Breakfast at Sotheby’s: An A–Z of the Art World

Philip Hook. Overlook, $29.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4683-0966-9
Hook (The Ultimate Trophy), a director and senior paintings specialist at Sotheby’s and a former director at Christie’s, presents a witty guide to the contemporary art market. Although he is unquestionably a participant and a leader in these markets, he veers away from easy praise, preferring a tongue-in-cheek, wry voice that teases his milieu. Speaking of the lag in the English markets’ response to Impressionism, he asks: “Why should we give good money for something that didn’t take very long to knock up?” Organized alphabetically into five sections, the book is marked by the kind of breezy observations that allow for generally satisfying overviews, with few profound revelations. Readers with art world knowledge will find mostly familiar information. Similarly, while Hook is quick to poke fun, his selection of topics and artists reflect a status quo that itself seems outdated. His early section on female artists, for instance, notes the problematic gender imbalance in contemporary art, though the remaining pages talk almost exclusively about men. And even though today’s markets are heavily influenced by living artists, his chosen examples after the mid-20th century rarely venture further than Jeff Koons. Despite his limited focus, Hook is entertaining, and the anecdotes from his career are particularly lively. 82 b&w illus. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/14/2014
Release date: 10/02/2014
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Hardcover - 368 pages - 978-1-84614-625-1
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