Rogues' Gallery: A History of Art and its Dealers (Hardback)Philip Hook (author)
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If the only specialist knowledge required to trade in art is a pair of weighing scales, then the operation is no different from dealing in potatoes. But to the extent that successful dealing also involves expertise in artists’ identities and understanding of what makes desirable subject matter, then the role of the art dealer takes on greater significance.
Philip Hook takes the lid off the world of art dealing and invites readers to join with him in delving through the brilliance, cunning, greed and daring of its practitioners.
In a richly anecdotal narrative he describes the rise and occasional fall of the extraordinary men and women who over the centuries have made it their business to sell art to kings, merchants, nobles, entrepreneurs and museums.
From its beginnings in Antwerp, where paintings were sometimes sold by weight, to the rich hauteur of the contemporary gallery in London, Paris and New York, art dealing has been about identifying what is intangible but infinitely desirable, and then finding clients for whom it is irresistible. Those who have purveyed art for a living range from tailors, spies and the occasional anarchist to scholars, aristocrats, merchants and connoisseurs, each variously motivated by greed, belief in their own vision of art and its history, or simply the will to win.
The cast of characters includes Paul Durand-Ruel, the Impressionists' champion; Herwath Walden, who first brought Modernism into the limelight; Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, high priest of Cubism; Leo Castelli, dealer-midwife to Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art; and Peter Wilson, the charismatic Sotheby's chairman who made the auction room theatre.
Philip Hook's history is one of human folly, greed and duplicity, interspersed with ingenuity, inspiration and acts of heroism. Rogues' Gallery is learned, witty and irresistibly readable.
'Reads like an entertaining yarn overheard in the nook of a Mayfair bar.' - The Observer
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
Number of pages: 288
Weight: 613 g
Dimensions: 240 x 162 x 29 mm
Fascinating and elegantly written...both wise and timely -- William Boyd * Guardian *
Wonderfully entertaining...full of cracking stories -- Hannah Rothschild * Mail on Sunday *
Fascinating...Hook writes with honesty and wry detachment -- Robert Eustace * Telegraph *
A pleasure to read -- Michael Prodger * Times *
Illuminating...combines expertise with irreverence -- Christian House * Observer *
Fascinating -- Roger Lewis * Daily Mail *
Entertainingly written -- Bendor Grosvenor * Apollo Magazine *
Hook writes...eloquently and knowledgeably...witty and erudite * World of Interiors *
Urbane and witty -- Mark Le Fanu * Spear's Magazine *
Remarkable -- Florence Hallett * The Arts Desk *
Praise for Breakfast at Sotheby's 'This book is a learned and thoughtful work of art history, but it also 'investigates in prurient detail the guilty but ever-fascinating relationship between art and money' with great wit * Daily Mail *
A cultured, witty, clear-eyed, worldly teacher with a fully functioning sense of humour. A real delight. -- William Boyd * Spectator *
He writes better about the physical nature and impact of painting than anyone I have read for years. -- Grey Gowrie * Daily Telegraph *
Authoritative without being pompous and happy to mock his trade's absurdities, he explores offbeat subjects ... Even those who don't know much about art will find lots to like here. * Guardian *
A breezy, whimsical and often wry compendium, chock-full of hard-won wisdom about what makes someone spend millions of dollars to buy an artwork at auction. * New York Times *
Mr Hook's] delightful Breakfast at Sotheby's is a house sale of a book, a chance for him to clear out 35 years of memories as an art dealer and auctioneer, first at Christie's and then Sotheby's, a rival auction house. Besides the colourful stories, Mr Hook offers various theories about the art world, and keen insight on that vexing question of what gives art value. Amid the well-known answers (provenance, colour, "wall power") are some less obvious observations, both relevant and delightful. * Economist *
It's very hard to write an amusing book about art that has some serious things to say. But Philip Hook has done it. * Sunday Times Books of the Year *
A winner. Readers will learn more about the modern art market in this simple book than in any college course. * Kirkus Reviews *