Best books for artists and collectors to read before Art Basel

Regardless of your background or background in the art world, reading these books will give you a solid understanding of contemporary artists, artistic values ​​and the dirty deeds that only underpaid curators with PhDs, auction house executives and accountants who worked on the notorious “Panama Papers” know.

I have read all of these books and highly recommend them to anyone even remotely interested in art. Master the artistic dialect, understand different genres and learn to identify the best artists in an instant. I dove headfirst into the deep end when he came to the art world only six years ago. Now I realize that it will take a lifetime to really grasp it all. However, with these books I was referred to read by friends with PhDs or museum curators, I felt my confidence soar like milkweed.

Let’s start with the book I always recommend first because it’s short, sweet, and written for understanding. You can read this on your flight to Miami for Art Basel and land with the swagger of a conservative Hauser and Wirth.

1. “Who’s afraid of contemporary art? by Jessica Cerasi and Kyung An

This book is almost paperback in size and can be read in about an hour to 90 minutes flat. Sample photos of each artist are included.

Summarized by the authors: “Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art brings together everything you need to give you the confidence to stand up for yourself in a conversation about contemporary art…or to go to an exhibition and decide if you want to. like. If we can talk about such complex topics as the latest technology, an auteur film or the upcoming general election with friends, then why does the idea of ​​discussing contemporary art scare us so much? It’s a specialist area like any other, and can lend itself to informal understanding and conversation over dinner in much the same way.

2. “Why were there no great female artists?” By Linda Nochlin

A shortie but a goodie, this fantastic (some would say groundbreaking) look at art history, and those who determine what “genius” is will make your head spin! You might even find yourself questioning everything you thought you knew not only about the art but also about the story itself. Dare I say, it will make you reassess your upbringing and question the structure of society itself!

Take a look at the editor’s summary here, then buy it ASAP. You WILL be the smartest person at the art party after reading this.

“Many scholars have called Linda Nochlin’s seminal essay on women artists the first real attempt at feminist art history. In her groundbreaking essay, Nochlin refused to answer the question of why there hadn’t been “great women artists” in her own corrupt terms, and instead she dismantled the very concept of greatness, unraveling the basic assumptions that created human-centered genius. in art.

With unparalleled insight and wit, Nochlin challenged the acceptance of a white male perspective in art history. And future freedom, she says, requires women to leap into the unknown and risk tearing down the institutions of the art world to rebuild them anew.

3. “33 Artists in 3 Acts” by Sarah Thornton

This book was the first book I read in 2016 when I started peeling the skin off the hot air balloon-sized onion that is the art market. Before this book, I didn’t understand HOW people like Jeff Koon could sell a cute dog sculpture for tens of millions of dollars, or why Yayoi Kusama was taken seriously despite her current mental state and living in an institution. Where is she from? How did she start? You’ll learn all that and more about top contemporary artists after this auspicious book, just in time for Art Basel.

Who’s afraid of contemporary art?

4. “Dark Side of the Boom: The Excesses of the Art Market in the 21st Century” by Georgina Adam

Does anyone remember Panama papers? Want to understand a little why and HOW the art market can be so attractive to the unscrupulous elites of the world? This judicious reading must be a film, at least a documentary. Anyone have friends at Netflix? Help Georgina if you do.

I let the editor explain. “This book examines the excesses and extravagances that the explosion of the contemporary art market in the 21st century has brought in its wake. The purchase of art as an investment, the temptations of forgery and fraud, tax evasion, money laundering and the pressure to produce ever more art are part of this story, as are the upheavals in auction houses and the impact of the increased use of financial instruments on artistic transactions.

Drawing on a series of dogged interviews with artists, collectors, lawyers, bankers and convicted artist forgers, the author traces the voracious commodification of artists and art objects and the position of the art in the clandestine puzzle of the highest echelons of global capital. Adam’s revelations seem even more timely in the wake of the Panama Papers revelations, for example incorporating examples of how tax havens have been used to hide artistic transactions – and property – from the public eye. public scrutiny.

5. “A History of the Western Art Market: A Collection of Writings on Artists, Dealers and Markets” by Titia Hulst

Finally, the studious Titia Hulst takes us through the emergence and evolution of art markets in the Western world. As an asset class, the fine arts are among the top three in the world along with real estate and the stock market, but little is known about how they have developed to maintain this bastion in the economic market. capitalist.

Its publisher notes that it is “selected writings from all academic disciplines that present compelling evidence of the inherent commercial dimension of art and show how artists, dealers and collectors have interacted over time. , from Quattrocento city-states in Italy to high-stakes post-millennium markets in New York and Beijing. This approach sheds surprising new light on traditional concerns of art history and aesthetics, revealing much that is provocative, profound and sometimes even comical. The unique historical perspective of this volume makes it suitable for use in academic courses and postgraduate and professional programs, as well as for professionals working in art-related environments such as museums, galleries and homes. of auction.

Although considered for professional use, I believe it is suitable for anyone wishing to better understand the financial underpinnings of the fine art market. If you have any book recommendations for me, feel free to share them and I’ll gladly take a look.

Carrie Christine Eldridge is an entrepreneur, writer, art gallery owner, collector and critic. She is the founder of ATO Gallery and the ATO platform, a protocol for tracking the values ​​and provenance of fine art in real time. ATO Gallery represents the work of dozens of international artists and has the distinction of selling the most expensive physical artwork purchased with cryptocurrency – an encaustic by Ben Katz sold in 2018 for 150 Bitcoin. Eldridge graduated from Southern Methodist University with degrees in economics and history. She is a frequent speaker on topics such as art and technology, human rights and equality, appearing on panels at venues such as the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, the Milken Institute, SXSW Austin and Art Decentralized during Miami Art Week. She has been interviewed by ArtNet News, CNN Money, Forbes, Harper’s Bazaar Art, Yahoo Finance, CNBC among others.


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