cover image From Manet to Manhattan: The Rise of the Modern Art Market

From Manet to Manhattan: The Rise of the Modern Art Market

Peter Watson. Random House (NY), $35 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40472-9

Watson's colorful, anecdotal history of the development of the modern art market opens with his behind-the-scenes account of the 1990 Christie's auction that saw the sale of a van Gogh portrait for a record $82.5 million. His theme--that auctioneers and dealers have shaped the art market as arbiters of public taste--receives sporadic support, as in his account of the New York Armory Show of 1913 or a discussion of dealer Siegfried Bing, ``godfather of Art Nouveau.'' Art critic for the London Observer and the Spectator, Watson entertainingly covers art scandals, big deals and changing fashions, profiling such dealers as Ambroise Vollard, Daniel Wildenstein and the notorious Joseph Duvenn as well as collectors such as Gertrude Stein, Isabella Stewart Gardner and Louisine Havemeyer. He airs the fierce current rivalry between Sotheby's and Christie's and suggests that much of the recent art boom was artifically generated, involving shady purchases by Japanese buyers who used art to launder money for Japan's political parties, corporations and organized crime. Illustrations not seen by PW. First serial to Vanity Fair; author tour. (Dec.)