The $12 million stuffed shark's page for the paperback is here, and here's the hardcover. The subtitle is 'The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art', and the book is a joy to read even if you don't have a few million dollars to spare and a large empty wall in your $15 million apartment. I know of no other popular book that offers such a good overview of the institutional framework and market structure of the contemporary art world, complete with authoritative lists of the top artists, works, collectors, dealers and galleries.

The economic argument of the book is admittedly not very deep (branding is important; get branded and you can sell anything at any price) and the inevitable frowning-down-on-people-paying-millions-to-put-garbage-in-their-living-rooms morality does creep into the text.

That said, the book is the best primer (and probably all you'll ever find useful or interesting to know) on contemporary art, and it is simply a fascinating read from cover to cover. Although it is strictly non-fiction, the $12 Million Stuffed Shark is gripping in a way more reminiscent of fiction; the colourful characters that come alive in its pages - the artists, buyers and dealers that create contemporary art - occupy a world of money, glamour and pop philosophy that is as interesting as anything that could be imagined.

Larry Gagosian [...] born in Los Angeles and seemingly known to everyone in the art world either as 'Larry Gaga'; or, due to his endless energy, as 'Go-go', [...] is to art dealing what George Steinbrenner was to baseball-team owning. He is famous for his silver hair, beautiful companions, and a very large home in East Hampton, New York called Toad Hall. He is one of the few dealers to get away with breaking the unwritten rule that you should not be seen to live better than your artists. [...]

With the exception of the late Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Brooklyn-born son of Haitian and Puerto Rican parents, a high school dropout with no formal art training, Gagosian has neither nurtured nor represented new artists. Basquiat made himself that exception, going to Los Angeles in 1983 where he talked his way into living and working for six months in one room of Gagosian's beach house in Venice. The great trivia aspect of that story is the identity of Basquiat's girlfriend, who lived with them; the then unknown singer Madonna.


by datacharmer | Monday, December 08, 2008
  , | | The $12 million stuffed shark @bluematterblogtwitter