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The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art Paperback – April 13, 2010
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Why would a smart New York investment banker pay $12 million for the decaying, stuffed carcass of a shark? By what alchemy does Jackson Pollock’s drip painting No. 5, 1948 sell for $140 million?
Intriguing and entertaining, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark is a Freakonomics approach to the economics and psychology of the contemporary art world. Why were record prices achieved at auction for works by 131 contemporary artists in 2006 alone, with astonishing new heights reached in 2007? Don Thompson explores the money, lust, and self-aggrandizement of the art world in an attempt to determine what makes a particular work valuable while others are ignored.
This book is the first to look at the economics and the marketing strategies that enable the modern art market to generate such astronomical prices. Drawing on interviews with past and present executives of auction houses and art dealerships, artists, and the buyers who move the market, Thompson launches the reader on a journey of discovery through the peculiar world of modern art. Surprising, passionate, gossipy, revelatory, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark reveals a great deal that even experienced auction purchasers do not know.
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I plan on acquiring his more recent works (2 books as of this review date), which appear to expound on this subject.
Want to know how? Read this book and you will find out.
Availability of eagerly sought contemporary works is so restricted and controlled that billionaires stampede in unison in order to purchase the same works, driving values through the stratosphere. Billionaires follow billionaires since who else can they trust to tell them what to do with their vast fortunes? Billionaire are sheep too, they just belong to a different flock. And they suffer the same disappointments when they can't get what they want, with highly coveted works there are not enough to go around.
Yes, there are some things money cannot buy. Having billions of dollars alone is not enough to acquire the most coveted works of contemporary art, which have to be "placed" not sold to only those deemed worthy. These will only be "placed" where the reputation of the artist will get the most favor, perhaps with a billionaire who is a philanthropist, rather than a billionaire who makes a more vulgar impression.
As wealth becomes more and more polarized, with money at the top so vast it is meaningless, we can only wonder where this will all end. I wish I had a $100M laying around, but alas, those Warhols have finally gotten away from me.