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Tales from the Art Crypt: The painters, the museums, the curators, the collectors, the auctions, the art Hardcover – June 20, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (June 20, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039457169X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394571690
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,359,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Tales from the Art Crypt, Richard Feigen, a veteran of nearly 50 years as an art dealer, offers not a conventional memoir but rather a series of highly polished anecdotes adding up to an illuminating dissection of art-world practice and politics. The opening chapter, aptly titled "Detective Stories," makes attributing an old master painting or unearthing a forgotten portrait of Thomas Jefferson as exciting as a murder mystery. Feigen's acid comments on the provincialism of his hometown, Chicago, explain his relocation to New York in the mid-1960s. His depictions of fellow dealers like Leo Castelli and Sam Salz are amusingly candid without seeming mean-spirited; affectionate portrayals of collectors such as Morton and Rose Neumann are equally vivid. Also memorable is a juicy account of his stint on the board of the Barnes Foundation, whose decision to deaccession works and permit a traveling exhibit of fragile paintings he deplores. Feigen, who has studied and sold everything from surrealist works and pop art to 17th-century Italian paintings, displays an infectious zest for art as both aesthetic pursuit and business. His comments on the conflicts between museum directors and their newly revenue-conscious boards of trustees explain much about the increasing commercialization of once scholarly institutions. His delightful book fulfills the mission museums once took for granted: to entertain and educate. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran art dealer Feigen offers up some salty tales from his decades of wheeling and dealing in the vicious and malicious world of the international art market. Feigen represented a number of artists, notably Francis Bacon, before they were considered salable, let alone successful, and was present during some heavy-duty deals in recent decades. His short chapters read like occasional essays, presented without any special order or continuity and containing accounts of meetings with artists from Mir? to Matta that have the convincing ring of someone who delights in minutiae and idiosyncrasy. (Sometimes the negotiations are described in such detail that they'll confound those not themselves involved in running art galleries.) On the downside, Feigen has a weakness for some of the lesser art produced in Chicago (where he was born), and makes too confident pronouncements on complex attribution questions involving artists like Poussin. (Sometimes he seems to prefer asserting the scandalous over the provable, as when he claims that the Italian Renaissance artist Sodoma "possibly" had sex with a zooful of pet animals.) These are relatively minor points, however, considering Feigen's willingness to tell all (or much) of what he knows, and his clear and disarming manner of doing so. Given the vast smoke screens raised by legendary dealers like Duveen about their sometimes dubious activities, this frank, detailed account by a mover and shaker in today's booming art market is sure to be discussed over many a downtown dinner. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Marc Salz on January 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found Richard Feigen's book to be a mostly worthy criticism of the current art world. I am the son of Sam Salz who is mentioned in a short passage in the book as a legendary art dealer. I think Mr.Feigen's description of his method of dealing is accurate even though my father's german-jewish accent is slightly overdone. My father may have been a shrewd and sometimes ruthless negotiator but he always saught a good home for "his pictures" and could judge a great one from a "postage stamp". The rest of the book deals very well with the gradual takeover of large corporate interests in the museums. Sometimes Mr. Feigen has a tendency to portray himself as the sole savior in a corrupt system but more than a few of his shots are right on target.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Though interesting, this book might well have been titled "Why I'm Right and Everyone Else is Wrong". This is an author with a definite purpose, and any enlightenment one gets is secondary to the book's overall tone of self-justification. Though Feigen shows an intense dislike for ex-Met director Thomas Hoving, Hoving's books consistently deliver more solid information and fewer sour grapes and give a more balanced view of the art world.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By JACK D HOLDEN on August 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Right on the money. The tension between current administration and curatorial museum work could not have been better demonstrated. Frank anecdotal experiences told in a lucid well crafted manner leaves you wanting more! The level of knowledge of museum boards at our best museums is sobering. The photo of the banner in front of the Metropolitan says it all--Haute couture at the Metropolitan-- Indeed! Thanks Mr. Feigen.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Chris Frost on February 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Feigen does a wonderful job of tooting his own horn and bashing the hard-earned reputations of others. The subtitle of the book: "The Painters, the Museums, the Curators, the Collectors, the Auctions, the Art" should have read "ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME". There a few useful or interesting tidbits of information buried in the book, but the challenge is staying awake long enough to unearth them.
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Feign is a well known art dealer who has written a disjointed series of stories related in that they all involve him and some noble act or great art find by him. In many of the stories Mr. Feign is critical of collectors, dealers, and administrators of art museums who are now dead and unable to defend themselves. Richard the Great emerges as the only noble and knowledgable person who always does the right thing and always barely misses the gold ring of finding and acquiring a lost art treasure. If you are interested in an egomaniac's view of his life and the shortcomings of others, written in the guise of stories about art this is the book for you. The editor should be fired for not catching the number of duplications of facts and typographical errors.
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