The Hot Bid, Shelf Life: “Art Collecting Today: Market Insights for Everyone Passionate About Art” by Doug Woodham

Art Collecting Today cover

What you see: Art Collecting Today: Market Insights for Everyone Passionate About Art by Doug Woodham. *$24.99, Allworth Press.

 

Does it fit in my purse? Yes, just.

 

Cut to the chase. Should I buy this book? Yes.

 

You could call this Everything You Wanted to Know About the Art World, But Were Afraid to Ask, but Woodham wouldn’t, because he knows better than to reach for a joke that last got laughs in 1975.

 

Still, ACT serves that sort of role, explaining all the things you should know about art-collecting, but might not, or might have forgotten, and it does it without condescension.

 

ACT came out in Spring 2017 and has aged well overall (the GOP tax bill passed later that year affected the information on art and taxes, but c’mon,).

 

Woodham knows whereof he speaks, having embraced contemporary art as a 15-year-old and having followed a path that took him to a PhD in economics, a stint at McKinsey, and president of the Americas at Christie’s from 2012 to 2015.

 

This background helped him obtain almost 100 interviews for the book with collectors, art advisors (which is his current profession), auction house and gallery folks, lawyers, and others who might not normally speak as freely.

 

The material Woodham gathered from the anonymous dozens ensures that ACT is not a dry recitation of dos and don’ts. It pulls in topical art controversies that were live before May 2017, including the unusual threat that the Detroit Institute of the Arts faced in the wake of the city of Detroit declaring bankruptcy. It acknowledges the rise of Instagram and details its impact. It spends a chapter showing how six artists–Christopher Wool, Amedeo Modigliani, Yayoi Kusama, Rene Magritte, Ruth Asawa, and Elizabeth Murray–have seen their market reputations rise and fall.

 

And it deals head-on with the emotions of buyers and sellers. For ages, the tenets of economics assumed that market movers generally acted rationally. That’s never been true for art, and could never be true for art, because loving art isn’t rational. And art that goes unloved eventually goes unloved by the art marketplace.

 

ACT excels at grappling with the inherent irrationality of the art market, shedding light on its mysteries without killing its romance. It explores the alchemy of how love turns into money, or fails to, with deftness and brevity.

 

This book is perfect for subway journey reading and just-before-you-fall-asleep reading in that you can jump into it and out of it at will with the confidence that you’ll learn something, enjoy yourself, or both. Usually both.

 

Worth buying new, at full price.

 

How to buy Art Collecting Today: Please purchase it from an independent bookstore near you. If there isn’t one near you, try ordering it from the Strand Bookstore.

 

How to subscribe to The Hot BidClick the trio of dots at the upper right of this page. You can also follow The Hot Bid on Instagram and follow the author on Twitter.

 

Doug Woodham is on Instagram, and he has a website. He also publishes a quarterly e-newsletter, dubbed Art and Money. Scroll to the bottom of this page to subscribe.

 

Text is copyright Sheila Gibson Stoodley. Image is courtesy of Doug Woodham.

 

* I received Art Collecting Today as an advance review copy through one of the five people whose brains I picked when I was working out whether and how to do this blog. I’m confident that if I’d heard about it later, I would have bought it or put it on my wish list.

 

Art Collecting Today was originally published in Spring 2017.

 

Would you like to hire Sheila Gibson Stoodley for writing or editing work? Click the word “Menu” at the upper right for contact details.

 

 

 

 

THB Shelf Life: “Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places”, by Rebecca Rego Barry

Rare Books Uncovered Paperback

 

What you see: Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places by Rebecca Rego Barry. * $19.99, Voyageur Press.

 

Does it fit in my purse? Yes, but with difficulty.

 

Cut to the chase. Should I buy this book? Yes.

 

Fair warning: I’m a complete sucker for books like this. It is The Sort Of Thing I Like, And I Like That Sort of Thing. Rare Books Uncovered is a perfect example of a book I’d put on my wish list and end up buying for myself less than 20 minutes later because I couldn’t hold out until my birthday or Christmas to read it.

 

This book made me happy. Every page of it. Am I biased? I suppose, but if Rare Books Uncovered had been poorly written, it would have made me sad, and I would not hold back from detailing exactly how it saddened me. Make of that what you will.

 

I do not have the book-collecting affliction, but I empathize with and celebrate those who do. Rare Books Uncovered is a 254-page celebration of them and those who enable them.

 

All the stories in the book take place between 1976 and 2014. All feature tales of the hunt–finding or rediscovering treasures that lurked across the country and the world.

 

I devoured the book methodically in one straight shot. Reading it was like emptying the bonbons from an oversize assortment one by one, but without the guilt.

 

Rare Books Uncovered avoids hyper-focusing on the priciest scores. Some of the items described have mostly or only sentimental value. Others are delights I had no idea existed. I am forever jealous of the person who found a copy of a Jorge Luis Borges book illustrated by Sol LeWitt.

 

Readers of Rare Books Uncovered will meet Martin Stone, a rare book hunter who ought to have his own hour-long TV procedural [Book Hunter, Crime Solver! Based on the life of Martin Stone, coming soon to ABC!]. You’ll encounter a family Bible that’s actually worth something, and you’ll learn why so many are not.

 

You’ll stumble upon books from the library of Mark Twain, inexplicably stored in barrels. You’ll thrill to the tale of the discovery of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster.

 

You’ll follow along as the copy of Frankenstein that author Mary Shelley inscribed and gave to Lord Byron emerges from the shadows. You’ll contemplate the author’s own find, a first edition of Death of a Salesman that might have belong to Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Shirer.

 

Munch, munch, munch until all the bonbons are gone. They are tasty, and they go fast.

 

The stories have more substance than bonbons, though. The author snuck in fiber in the form of capsule anecdotes, asides that define book-world terms, and by making sure the parade of chapters aren’t just about the score. You see the struggle, You glimpse the tedium, and you confront ethical questions, too.

 

Worth buying new, for full price.

 

How to buy Rare Books Uncovered: Please purchase it from an independent bookstore near you. If there isn’t one near you, try ordering it from Powell’s.

 

How to subscribe to The Hot BidClick the trio of dots at the upper right of this page. You can also follow The Hot Bid on Instagram and follow the author on Twitter.

 

Rebecca Rego Barry is on Twitter, and she has a website. She’s also the editor of Fine Books Magazine, which is on Twitter and has a website.

 

Text is copyright Sheila Gibson Stoodley. Image is courtesy of Rebecca Rego Barry.

 

* I received Rare Books Uncovered as a review copy, but I’d had it on my wish list for a while before the offer was made.

 

Rare Books Uncovered was first published in Winter 2015.

 

Would you like to hire Sheila Gibson Stoodley for writing or editing work? Click the word “Menu” at the upper right for contact details.