Book Reviews 2019

Here ArtMarketGuru suggests a selection of books which act as essential guides for anyone looking to deepen their knowledge on the art market and its inner workings. Books listed explore developments in the art market in recent history and dissect recurring themes such as value, relationships between key figures, our current economy, and predominant issues involved in the art market such as forgery, money laundering, lack of transparency and lack of regulation. All books suggested are written by industry experts who have years of experience, often working at top institutes. This list is to aid those looking to develop their knowledge on the art market and is useful for anyone looking to begin a career in arts, an already established collector or dealer, or someone who is just interested in learning more about the market.

Here are some of our top recommendations:


Big Bucks

by Georgina Adam

Written by Georgina Adam, editor-at-large of The Art Newspaper and art market expert, Big Bucks was published in 2014 and debunks the modern and contemporary art market of the 21st century. Drawing on personal experience, Adam’s informative yet engaging style makes the book ideal for anyone from the student to the seasoned collector. The book chronicles many aspects of the booming art market from auction houses to dealer rivalries and collector snobbery as well as new economies, the increase in art fairs and the transition to online. The final chapter of the book, entitled The Dark Side of the Moon addresses the unregulated nature of the art market and acknowledges that both tax evasion and money laundering are issues. Adam’s does not shy away from addressing negative aspects of the market – including lack of transparency and regulation, it is perhaps this which makes the book such an interesting read.



Dark Side of the Boom: The Excesses of the Art Market in the 21st Century

by Georgina Adam

Intended as a sequel to her book Big Bucks (2014), Dark Side of the Boom was dubbed the “art market book of 2017” by the Financial Times. Adam’s account looks at the complex historical relationship between art and money whilst examining the individual aspects making up the art market including sale rooms, galleries, buyers, sellers and collectors. Focusing largely on events which take place behind the scenes, the reader gains an exclusive insight. One of the ways in which she does this is through using a series of 45 court cases to frame secret dealings, including forgeries, fraud, tax evasion, money laundering and other offences. The book is a must read for anyone curious to know the ins and outs of the art market, including its hidden secrets.



New Art, New Markets

by Iain Robertson

Written by Iain Robertson, Head of art business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London, New Art, New Markets explores several emerging contemporary art markets throughout the world. Originally published in 2011, the book was updated in 2018 by Robertson because of events that have unfolded since, calling for a dramatic revise of the original text. Looking at different geographical locations including Iran, India, China and South America the book examines three types of emerging market, including the contemporary, the recently established and the maturing mature. Exploring countries outside of Europe and America, Robertson has remarked he was unable to add Africa because it is too early and not enough is known about the market, he intends to include it in the books third edition.



The Art Business

by Iain Roberson and Derrick Chong

Published in 2008 the authors investigate how the value of art is determined whilst exposing the realities of the commercial trade in fine art and antiques. Covering contemporary issues in art business the text is helpfully divided into four main sections which cover themes of; the technical and structural elements of the art market, cultural policy and management in art business, regulatory legal and ethical issues in the art world. This is done through a series of interviews with leading art market experts who provide a range of perspectives. As a wealthy international industry, the art market is one with its own conventions and pressures and this is explored in the book through looking at the role of auction houses, commercial galleries and art museums.



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

by Philip Hook

Written by Philip Hook, a senior director at Sotheby’s and former antiques roadshow expert, Breakfast at Sotheby’s: An A-Z of the Art World shares his 35 years of experience in the art market. Published in 2013, the dominating view of the book is that of the auction house. The book takes on an alphabetical guide allowing Hook to cleverly force the reader to think laterally. Main themes running throughout include how art acquires its financial value and how this can increase and depreciate over time. What makes a work of art sell? Hook examines how this can be attributed to anything from weather, setting, colour and artist circumstances. For instance, if there is a suicide involved the artworks value will usually see an acute increase in price. The account is written in witty, wry, observant and educational style, ideal for those who want to gain an insight into the workings of the auction house.



The Value of Art: Money, Power, Beauty

by Michael Findlay

Who decides what art is worth? Is the main question put forward in Michael Findlay’s text The Value of Art: Money, Power, Beauty. Findlay is a prominent art dealer and art market expert who demonstrates a clear passion for art in all its forms and argues that buying art for investment alone is not fulfilling. The book acts as a valuable guide to the current state of the art world, guiding the reader in understanding how value is determined. Findlay splits value into three main components; the kind that is commercial, the kind that is social and the personal kind of value which is often determined by the individuals background, education and culture. Published in 2012 this informative narrative is enriched with anecdotes, advice and insider stories.



The Art of Forgery: The Minds, Motives and Methods of Master Forgers

by Noah Charney

The Art of Forgery: The Minds, Motives and Methods of major Forgers was called “A rattling good read” by The Art Newspaper. Through documenting some of the world’s most famous forgeries it most certainly makes for an exciting read. Noah Charney investigates the motives of artists and criminals who have faked works of art and their impressive ability to con the art world. Throughout the book Charney conveys how the thrill for top forgers who have made their way into private collections and publics museums must be like no other. He also shows us that it is rarely greed that is the sole motivation behind many of these crimes, often it can be an artist who has previously faced rejection of their own. Organised in a series of case studies moving between different periods, Charney divides them under rubrics such as Genius, Pride, Revenge and Money. As founder and president of the ARCA, the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, a non-profit research group centered on issues of crime, Charney has been widely recognised for his work in the field of art crime.



Rogues’ Gallery: A History of Art and its Dealers

by Philip Hook

Rogues’ Gallery: A History of Art and its Dealers dissects the complex role of the art dealer, a profession which has historically divided opinion, with Marcel Duchamp infamously calling them “lice on the back on artists.” Art market expert Philip Hook has published multiple volumes on the art world which combine his expertise and experience. Hook traces the role of the art dealer from 16th century Antwerp all the way to modern day, examining key figures on the way such as Paul Durand-Ruel, champion of the Impressionists, Herwath Walden, responsible for bringing Modernism into the limelight, and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, supporter of Cubism. Hook’s narrative is richly anecdotal and witty making the account very readable, interesting ethical questions are also considered throughout the book.



Art Collecting Today: Market Insights for Everyone Passionate about Art

by Doug Woodham

Written by Doug Woodham, former president of Christie’s Americas between 2012-2014, Art Collecting Today: Market Insights for Everyone Passionate about Art does a great job of examining how the art marketplace works and how best to navigate it, whether you are a seasoned professional or newcomer. In an industry that is now worth more than sixty billion dollars in annual sales, Woodham unpicks the opaque often unregulated market. The study is informed by the author’s own experiences as well one hundred interviews that he executed with collectors, lawyers, art advisors, gallerists and auction specialists in the US and Europe. Topics covered include how to evaluate, buy and sell art, how collectors and dealers operate, as well as advice for new and prospective collectors.



A History of the Western Art Market: A Sourcebook of Writings on Artists, Dealers and Markets

by Titia Hulst

Titia Hulst’s A History of the Western Art Market: A Sourcebook of Writing on Artists, Dealers and Markets looks at multiple sources in its quest to debunk the business of art. Hulst examines over six centuries of art business and examines the importance and impact of influential centres of Western Capitalism on the remainder of the world. The book is chronologically formatted allowing the viewer to jump from section to section should they wish. Hulst successfully explores how artists, dealers and collectors have interacted over time whilst using a variety of academic sources to back up her argument. The book acts as a highly useful reference point for anyone from the artist, collector, curator or scholar.



Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and Fall of Everyone Else

by Chrystia Freeland

Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and Fall of Everyone Else is a study which looks at the wealthiest .01% of people in the world and how they have got there. It provides a valuable insight into the current state of Capitalism and its most wealthy players. Chrystia Freeland is a business journalist and Global Editor-at-Large at Reuters and writes informatively on the subject due to the unprecedented access she has had to the richest and most successful people in the world. With income and wealth today less evenly distributed than it has been in many years, Freeland examines the lives of people who have made it into the top .01% and how they came to be where they are. She also shares her concerns about the increasing political influence of the superrich as well as the growing social distance between them and ordinary people. Freeland’s book makes for an interesting read and is based on lots of solid research making it a valuable guide for anyone keen to learn about our current economy.



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

by Peter Watson

Published in 1992 Peter Watson’s From Manet to Manhattan: The Rise of the Modern Art Market is widely thought of as the “first integrated account of the development of the modern art market.” British journalist and author Peter Watson takes the reader on a panoramic view of the art market, looking at the past century through case studies of paintings, books and oriental art. The book begins with a behind the scenes look at the sale of Van Gogh’s Dr Gachet (1990) which sold for a record breaking $75million. Also included is discussion of art price trends to which Watson gives warning that the art market is neither steady or predictable and one must always be cautious. Watson traces the development of auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s as well as the development of the art dealer.