The Essential Reading List for New Collectors, à la Artsy Staff

Whet your palate with excerpts from our favorite books on collecting art, pulled from the shelves of the Artsy staff:

1. Adam Lindemann, Collecting Contemporary

“The most important thing that a collector should do is to buy. Of course, that may seem like a self-serving answer from an art dealer, but I mean it seriously. You run into these collectors who are so paralysed that they can’t buy anything; it’s “I don’t know, I don’t need it.” You never know, really, until you start living with things and making commitments. Obviously, you should buy things that you like, that you can afford, that you feel like you’re getting a fair deal on, but there’s this paralysis, particularly when people are starting to collect. That’s understandable up to a point, because the person is entering an area that is kind of a murky world for an outsider, or for an initiate into collecting. There are things about it that are hard to read unless you’ve had some familiarity with art galleries and dealers. On the other hand, if you’re dealing with a reputable gallery, I think you have tobuy.”

2. Sarah Thornton, Seven Days in the Art World

“The contemporary art world is a loose network of overlapping subcultures held together by a belief in art. They span the globe but cluster in art capitals such as New York, London, Los Angeles, and Berlin. Vibrant art communities can be found in places like Glasgow, Vancouver, and Milan, but they are hinterlands to the extent that the artists working in them have often made an active choice to stay there. Still, the art world is more polycentric than it was in the twentieth century, when Paris, then New York held sway.”

3. Don Thompson, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark

“Judging art is supposed to have less to do with the content of a work and more to do with an instinctive sense for what the artist has to say. Kirsten Ward, who is a physician and psychologist, says that art has the greatest impact when it makes the thinking part of the brain talk to the feeling part. Great work speaks clearly, while more trivial work does what critics call ‘going dead.’”

4. Olav Velthuis, Talking Prices: Symbolic Meanings of Prices on the Market for Contemporary Art

“This book is not about colorful biographical details of artists, dealers, and collectors, about ‘the powers behind the scenes,’ about chivalrous and mischievous behavior of dealers, about amorous relationships with dramatic endings, or other juicy stories that the art world has come to be associated with in the popular press. The aim of the book is to understand how contemporary art is marketed in western societies around the turn of the twenty-first century, and how art dealers determine prices for contemporary works of art.”

5. Marjorie Garber, Patronizing the Arts

“Artists have always had patrons ... And inevitably, these relationships have been loaded-fraught with over-, and underestimation, with pettiness as well as generosity, with disdain as well as desire... The artist had the talent, and the patron the money. In some cases, though by no means all, the dynamic of the relationship involved forgetting this key and defining fact. Artists, who often have very little money, could occasionally live as if they were rich, or at least live among the rich, receive invitations to their parties, and be received at their city and country homes. And patrons, who have often, though by no means always, possessed considerable artistic vision and taste, could experience pleasure in a creative society of people and be made to feel that their place in the world might transcend the means by which they came to financial and social prominence. By mobilizing the fantasies that artists have about patrons, and vice versa, productive instances of patronage can be forged and precipitated.”

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