Breakfast at Sotheby's: An A-Z of the Art World
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When you stand in front of a work of art in a museum or exhibition, the first two questions you normally ask yourself are 1) Do I like it? and 2) Who’s it by?
When you stand in front of a work of art in an auction room or dealer’s gallery, you ask these two questions followed by others: How much is it worth? How much will it be worth in five or ten years’ time? And what will people think of me if they see it hanging on my wall?
Breakfast at Sotheby’s is an alphabetical guide to how people reach answers to such questions, and how in the process art is given a financial value. Based on Philip Hook’s thirty-five years’ experience of the art market, Breakfast at Sotheby’s explores the artist and his hinterland (including definitions for -isms, middle-brow artists, Gericault, and suicides), subject and style (from abstract art and banality through surrealism and war), “wall-power,” provenance, and market weather.
Comic, revealing, piquant, splendid, and occasionally absurd, Breakfast at Sotheby’s is a book of pleasure and intelligent observation, as engaged with art as it is with the world that surrounds it.
Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2013; p. 43 � The Munch Museum/ The Munch - Ellingsen Group, BONO, Oslo/DACS, London 2013; p. 71 � Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS, 2013; p. 105 � DACS 2013; p. 116 � The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS 2013; p. 139 � The Estate of Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris and ADAGP, Paris), licensed in the UK by ACS and DACS, London 2013; p. 181 � DACS 2013; p. 193 � ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2013;
broader empathy for the human condition in all its intimate physical detail, in the visual language of a merciless realism. ‘In art,’ says Rodin, ‘immorality cannot exist. Art is always sacred, even when it takes for a subject the worst excesses of desire. Since it has in view only the sincerity of observation, it cannot debase itself.’ Pornography treats the same subject matter but with the intention to titillate. If art provokes lust, then it’s probably pornography. It’s fine to collect erotic
landscape painter’s lamp-lit street scenes at night create a frisson of pleasurable nostalgia. He is the entry portal of many nervous new collectors to the art market: the cosiness of his images coupled with the high recognizability of his style is a hugely reassuring combination. L. S. LOWRY: the distinctive stick men and the gaunt northern cityscapes, gloomily evocative of mid-twentieth-century urban life, are patented trademarks whose appeal endures into the twenty-first. Amedeo MODIGLIANI:
(David Teniers, Village Scene, oil on panel, c. 1650) Today auction-house catalogues – and indeed those of some dealers – are massive and freighted with learning. If dropped from a first-floor window on the head of a passer-by, the impact would be fatal. They are gloriously illustrated productions presenting the full details of each lot – its provenance, where it has been exhibited, in what publications it is mentioned – and then adding notes to describe and explain further the context and
people’s lives is that there must be something to save people’s lives for. Art has claims to be that thing, or one of them. So the provision of great art – as healthcare to the spirit rather than the body – also represents a legitimate expenditure of financial resources in a civilised society. A major landscape by Gustav Klimt, oil on canvas, 1913: worth a children’s hospital? If only I had come out with it on camera. Spending Power My years in the art market have also brought me to various