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.
same image to make a major Dadaist statement [see Part I, Images (Famous)]. The Incoherent artists – some of them on their own admission not artists at all but ‘people who don’t know how to draw making drawings’ – were mounting a challenge to academic art. What differentiated them was that they did so with an endearing humour rather than with the earnestness and dogmatism that characterized the more serious rebels who came a generation later. Quintin Septule (fl. 1910) A splendid show was
priceless bottle of Latour ’65 – was the ultimate aesthetic pleasure distillable from the artwork, simultaneously its apotheosis and its destruction. One tin is rumoured to have been opened in a museum, for conservation purposes, and found, distressingly, to be empty. It is an interesting concept, the excrement of the artist, at once a relic-worship of the creative intelligence and a joke, a subversion: bad painting is colloquially described as ‘crap’. The ultimate artistic relic: Piero
into Christie’s confessed to me that it would be a wrench to sell it, but she knew from her father that it was very valuable and the moment had now come because without the money she was facing pensionless penury. Breaking it to her that the painting was just a nineteenth-century copy and as such worth under �100 was not an easy thing to do. An early device for artificially ageing copies of old masters (Art Journal, 1852) The most successful fakes are of modern works. Not only is there less
batch of water lilies that he had painted to be exhibited in New York in 1909. He took a second look at them and refused to let them leave the studio. He felt they weren’t good enough. His dealer Durand-Ruel, arch salesman that he was, turned the disappointment of having to cancel the exhibition into something positive by emphasizing this evidence of his artist’s uncompromisingly high standards. When you buy a Monet, he reminded his clients, you’re buying a good Monet, because the artist doesn’t
‘fragmentary’, ‘old age’, ‘illness’, ‘mortality’, ‘dark’, ‘foreboding’ and ‘unfinished’. So the auction-house catalogue might read as follows: A spontaneous and moving work in which the artist draws on a lifetime’s artistic experience to present a subtly lit image of profound insight, the vision of his theme energized by the supreme economy of the execution in the lower section of the composition. Christie’s and Sotheby’s The art-auction business is, I think, unique. I don’t know another