The Auctioneer: Adventures in the Art Trade

Simon de Pury. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-05978-9
In this eye-opening memoir, de Pury, a distinguished auctioneer and art dealer, provides a lively account of his flashy career and today’s soaring art market, revealing a jet-setting , powerful, and private club of elites who buy, sell, and collect the world’s most expensive art. De Pury fondly remembers his childhood home in the Swiss city of Basel, where art flows “in the veins of its citizens” and where he became hooked on art at a young age. He describes his formative first trip to American art museums, his frustrations as a failed artist and student, and his struggle to find a career within the art world. De Pury also details his slow climb to the top at Sotheby’s, aided by larger-than-life mentors such as Peter Wilson, previous chairman of Sotheby’s and a closeted gay man rumored to be both a KGB agent and the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Though the narrative is often witty (the author’s brief interaction with Arnold Schwarzenegger is highly amusing), the writing is weirdly exaggerated and unfunny at times, such as when de Pury compares himself to Stalin’s victims when describing the Russian Mercury Group’s takeover of his auction house, or when he calls himself a “drug orphan” after his father, a lawyer for a pharmaceutical company, was promoted and transferred to Tokyo. These quibbles aside, the book provides an interesting glimpse into a world of artists, collectors, and dealers in which “the call of the gavel was the call of the wild.” Color photos. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/29/2016
Release date: 05/03/2016
Compact Disc - 978-1-68168-134-4
Ebook - 978-1-250-09409-4
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