Contemporary Art

Don Thompson. Palgrave Macmillan, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-137-27908-8
Economist Thompson (The $12 Million Stuffed Shark) makes the argument that the buying and selling of art has much in common with the buying and selling of other financial products, albeit obscured by subjective concepts of beauty and talent and the fact that the results of major auctions are never found in the business section of the New York Times. Yet, as with the stock market, “selling prices are reprinted in news media around the world regardless of the general indifference of most readers to the items being sold.” Thompson himself is not so much indifferent as contemptuous of some prices achieved by contemporary art. In the first half of the book, he questions how value is assigned to a Damian Hirst shark, a bust of model Stephanie Seymour by Maurizio Cattelan, or a stack of Brillo boxes commissioned but never touched by Andy Warhol. An engaging and focused analysis of the market players (artists, agents, dealers, auction houses, and buyers) follows. A chapter on auctions is a particularly insightful illustration of pricing in the context of behavioral finance and game strategy. Because the art market simultaneously ignores, exaggerates, and mimics financial markets, the subject is a goldmine for an economist, and Thompson can be forgiven for the book’s occasionally uneven moments. 8-page color photo insert. Agent: John Pearce, Westwood Creative Artists. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/10/2014
Release date: 05/06/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-137-46413-2
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-250-07506-2
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