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The Value of Art: Money, Power, Beauty Hardcover – April 10, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


One of the best [books] ever published on the art world. --Milton Esterow, ARTnews

Findlay passes along his own, entertaining view of the art world's evolution over the past few decades. . . . [He] champions the essential, intrinsic value of art a subject he addresses with passion. --Alexandra Peers, The Wall Street Journal

Although the text is generously scattered with juicy tidbits, Findlay is at his best when gently skewering the airs and mores of art world denizens. . . . Drolleries aside, The Value of Art is, above all, an elegantly argued plea to art lovers to never stop looking and to never believe that a world has revealed all of its secrets. --Sarah P. Hanson, Art + Auction magazine --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

What is art worth? How can a work by Pablo Picasso be sold for more than $100,000,000? This fascinating book explains the market for art--and art's value for all of us. In straightforward prose that doesn't mystify art or deny its special allure, prominent art dealer and market expert Michael Findlay offers a close up and personal view of almost a half century in the business of art.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Prestel Publishing; First Edition edition (April 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3791346385
  • ISBN-13: 978-3791346380
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 7.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Scotland in 1945 I have made a living as an art dealer in New York City since 1964. In the 1960's I published poetry in small magazines and since then occasional articles in art magazines about art & artists. In the early 1970's I completed a scurrilous novel, "Win", which my wife Victoria* hopes will never be published. I have continued to write poetry but not for publication. As a specialist at Christie's (1984-2000) I frequently lectured about collectors and collecting and created a one-day seminar about looking at modern art, called "Trusting Your Eye", for Christie's Education. I contributed to an anthology, "The Expert versus the Object", published by Oxford University Press in 2004. "The Value of Art" is my first published book. I wrote it to take the mystery out of how art achieves commercial value and also to inspire everybody, wealthy collectors and penurious art-lovers alike, to enjoy art regardless of its price-tag. For more about my activity as an art dealer visit

*Victoria Findlay Wolfe, whose first book was published in 2013
"15 Minutes Play-Improvisational Quilts", C&T Publishing.

I read a lot of fiction and would like to recommend the following books by writers no longer in the public eye: The "Empire" trilogy by J.G.Farrell; "Wolf Among Wolves" by Hans Fallada; "Embers" by Sandor Marai; "Music at Long Verney" by Sylvia Townsend Warner. Better known authors I have recently enjoyed include Richard Ford ("Canada"); Joyce Carol Oates ("Mudwoman"); William Boyd ("Ordinary Thunderstorms") and Roberto Bolano ("The Third Reich").

"The Value of Art" has been translated into Spanish, German, Korean and Japanese and
the Japanese version placed in the Top Ten "Best Designed" book of 2014 in the consumer magazine "Pen".

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on May 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A useful guide to a rare and obscure territory to most of us; the grounds--principally, located in New York City and London--where the commercial exchange of expensive fine art takes place.

Michael Findlay, the author, is a world-weary expert on this terrain. As an art dealer he has seen much and has firm opinions, many of the latter to which I agree (dislike of museum headphones for taped explanations of paintings; too few places for one to sit for contemplation of works in the art galleries of museums; contempt for Damien Hirst; and that one should take the time to "see.").

The basic thrust of the book is to describe the three individual aspects--not mutually exclusive--that create a work's value for an art buyer: the chance for an increased monetary return based on a future resale; the social uplift in owning a piece of great art; and one's internal appreciation of pure beauty. Not surprisingly, Mr. Findlay favors pure beauty.

One drawback: I think this book will be dated in too soon of time, given a good deal of its discussion is on the results of quite recent art auctions.

For those looking for a book by a magnificent modern art collector, one who Mr. Findlay mentions with approval, I suggest "Memories of a Collector" by Giuseppe Panza.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ivor E. Zetler on May 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Michael Findlay has been active in the "art market" for many years. In this entertaining and informative book he divides the value of art into 3 sections. One segment is the commercial value of the art work-here Findlay examines the sometimes questionable world of auctions and dealers. Secondly there is discussion of the social value of collecting, displaying and donating art. Findlay writes of his association with some renowned collectors-his career certainly sounds interesting and enviable. Finally there is an exploration of the intrinsic value of art works. Like in the book "The 12 Million Dollar Stuffed Shark", the author is reassuringly cynical of the contemporary art scene where one day wonders are attracting vastly inflated prices for their creations.

Findlay is not an art critic - nor does he claim to be one. While his writing is clear and entertaining, it does not have the insight or wit of an author like Robert Hughes. Nevertheless I recommend this book to anyone interested in the mechanisms of the present day art world. There are good color reproductions of some of the art works under discussion.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Everett on October 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michael Findlay has been an art dealer since 1964. In this opinionated book he discusses the value of art in three categories: financial value, social value, and intrinsic value.

Findlay explains that the market value of a work of art is based on five attributes: provenance, condition, authenticity, exposure, and quality. A key message is that art collectors should buy what they like to look at. Any potential increase in market value is speculation.

He explains that the market is cyclical, and people who view art purely as an investment appear when the market is hot. "There is an adage among old hands in the art world that the emergence of art investment funds signals that a boom is over." He points out that more than half of the art market is transacted in private sales. While art funds, art indexes, and art economists claim to analyze the market data, only the auction results are publicly available. "How can one measure and consequently predict activity in a market 52 percent of which is essentially invisible? ... I have little faith in crystal balls disguised as charts."

Findlay points out that auction prices are not a reliable indicator of market value; "an auction result actually represents a unique set of circumstances at a specific point in time." He cites an example of two similar Picasso pieces sold at auction within months of each other. The first sold for close to $6 million, but the second sold for $1 million less. The author speculates that two collectors were bidding in the first auction, but there was only one buyer left in the second auction, so he purchased for close to the reserve price.

"Ideally interest in art starts with a social experience." The author recalls two contrasting experiences.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book describes some of the incredible prices that the works of some artists have been sold for at auction, discusses why he feels that art is not a good investment medium and reminisces about the author's experiences hobnobbing with the people who think nothing of spending more that $50 million for a single art work. There isn't any real discussion of how art prices are determined. If you have a pretty 19th century oil painting on your wall, don't look here for help in figuring out what it might be worth. On the other other hand the author makes a very strong point that the real value of art is the feeling you get when you look at it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rick Wester on May 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Michael Findlay's The Value of Art is part memoir, part primer, part cautionary tale. Written by an expert with deep experience from a career that has spanned several iterations of a market that is poorly understood, even by those who are embedded in it, this historical review based on personal observations will broaden any reader's comprehension of the commercial, aesthetic and personal components that comprise the art market.
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