09 January 2010

The $12 Million Stuffed Shark by Don Thompson

The $12 Million Stuffed Shark is a fantastic example of a book that lets you peek inside a rarefied world. Even better is the fact Don Thompson is a sharp observer who strikes a neat balance between observation and subtle commentary. He can see the craziness of the contemporary art world, but he doesn't take cheap shots. However, he also doesn't shy away from making his point.

From the opening pages where he makes this point:

"...while more trivial work does what critics call 'going dead'. The experienced art collector will take a work home before buying it, to look at it several times a day. The question is whether a week or a month hence, after the novelty disappears, the message and the painter's skill will still be apparent." (p.6)

To the closing pages where he punctures the lotto bubble. As ordinary people, art investment is extremely unlikely to make us rich.

In fact, Thompson's insights are remarkably freeing, reinforcing that art is about buying something that enriches your life. For some people, that includes having other people envy them their collection. And the weirdness of that leads to $12 million stuffed sharks!

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