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$12 Million Dollar Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art and Auction Houses

$12 Million Dollar Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art and Auction Houses [Kindle Edition]

Don Thompson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"Don Thompson has written, by far, the best book on the economics of the contemporary art market yet written."--Felix Salmon, "Don Thompson provides the single best guide to both the anthropology and the economics of contemporary art markets. This book is fun and fascinating on just about every page." --Tyler Cowen, "New York Sun"

"If you read no other book about art in your life, read the one that's gripped me like a thriller for the past two's called the "$12 Million Stuffed Shark"." --Richard Morrison, "The Times "(London)

."'s lucid, well researched and, while carefully balanced, manages to retain a sharp edge ." --"Telegraph UK"

"A new book by an economist named Don Thompson entitled "$12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art" ought to be required reading for collectors intending to wade into well publicized contemporary art auctions..." --""

"[An] informative an occasionally hilarious look at the surreal contemporary art market... A clear-headed approach to a frequently high-pitched issue." --"Kirkus"

The Independent, 28th March 2008

an 'entralling revelation-rich trip through the money game of the art market.'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1884 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press (8 Nov 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845136519
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845136512
  • ASIN: B0077FAT8Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #190,633 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Written by an economist who had access to the most important actors (collectors, dealers, auctioneers, curators, art fair directors...)while doing his research, this book is an in-depth study of the way the market for contemporary art functions, the part played by auction houses, dealers, big collectors, museums, the sometimes incestuous relationships that exist between all of them, how art is priced, how auctions are organized (on and off the scene), how gallery shows are sold (or pre-sold), the importance of art-branding in creating an artist's reputation (the brand being the gallery, the auction house, the artist himself, a museum, or even a collector if he is important enough), and, most importantly, how these art brands are created. One insighful conclusion is that the art market, and the market for contemporary art in particular, is as much brand-driven as any other high-end luxury market. Through case studies (the dealers Larry Gagosian or Jay Joplin, the artists Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, Tracey Emin, Jeff Koons, the auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's, the collector Charles Saatchi...)and broader considerations on the overall economics of art, the author manages to write a book which is at the same time well informed (with some spelling approximations, e.g. "Joe Bernardo" for the Portuguese collector Jose Berardo), to the point and easy to read. Of the more than twenty books on the topic available on Amazon's, this one is the best in my opinion (and I've read quite a few...).
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Art is all about money 9 Feb 2009
If you are interested in the financial side of art then this is a great book. If you think art is all about money then this book will be an agreeable read. But if you think art is on a higher plain than filthy lucre then you'll be spitting blood with this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About Art that is nothing to do with Art 13 July 2010
By Janina
I don't know why I bought this book, but have found it very easy to read. It does reveal the very unscrupulous side of art that professionals like myself knew existed. Well explained and illustrated by Don Thompson some of the 'scams' are breathtaking in their audacity. Integrity is not a word that can be attached to any part of the game. That there has been no exposee of the goings on in the 'Art' market is not surprising since Thompson links Christies, Sotheby's and the Super Rich with the few artists who are overexposed in the media and the BBC. An old boys' network. Fascinating and somehow tawdry and depressing.
Recommended reading for wannabe artists and those who hope for recognition.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jaws - The Revenge 9 Jan 2011
After years of anti-shark PR, the shark finally gets its own back!
This book is a very readable introduction to the crazy world of the contemporary art market. If you ever wondered how an undiscovered artist suddenly sells art for millions, or how art dealers promote certain artists to the level of celebrities, then this book is for you.
As for the poor old shark itself, I hope Damien Hirst and Charles Saatchi cut its family in for a percentage on the $12,000,000 dollars they made from selling it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
When it comes to contemporary art, many observers simply scratch their heads and mumble, "You call that art?" Intriguing, disturbing, exhilarating and obscene, contemporary art is hard to understand. In fact, when you consider pieces like the titular $12 million stuffed shark by Damien Hirst, it is often downright baffling. If you're looking for artistic explanations and interpretations, though, Don Thompson doesn't offer much help. That's not his particular domain. Thompson, an economics and marketing professor, zeroes in on the financial inner-workings of the art world (at least, the pre-2009 recession art world). Curious why certain pieces sell for millions, he delved into the peculiar personalities that inhabit this controversial genre. getAbstract applauds his lively exploration of a fascinating topic that few economists would even ponder.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It looks at artists like On Kawara 28 Aug 2014
By Canna_W
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Only recently, Tracey Emin's installation "My Bed" was sold at auction for £2.5 million.

This book explains such phenomena. It was written for people who read about multi-million dollar prices for contemporary artworks and wonder how such eye-watering figures are reached. Most of the art discussed in the book is conceptual, but then a lot of contemporary art is conceptual.

It looks at artists like On Kawara, whose pictures of dates - literally pictures of dates - sell for up to £300,000 each.

Or Felix Gonzales-Torres, whose sculpture "(Untitled) Lover Boys" made of 355 lbs of individual wrapped blue and white candies, sold for $456,000.

Gonzales-Torres also did another sculpture of a pile of 10,000 fortune cookies. This did not reach its reserve price at auction, but the bidding went up to $520,000. In both instances of course there were ideas behind these works. They weren't just cookies or just sweeties. But for some of us the accusation that the emperor is not wearing any clothes cannot help but float to mind.

The author is an economist who has taught marketing at both Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics. He obviously enjoys contemporary art, both as a collector and an observer, and he casts a wide net. He looks at artists, dealers, auction houses and art fairs, and he follows the funnel that sucks in newbie artists at the top, and pops the lucky ones, (the very lucky ones), out at the bottom, as huge iconic branded figures like Damian Hirst, Jeff Koons, Andreas Gursky or David Hockney. We follow the artists' journey - which is mostly one of patronage, from when they leave art school to when they reach the big time, and each step of the way is analysed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A SUPER book, if truly horrific
A rather terrifying account of the mad money and multiple morons who 'set the fashion' in Contemporary Art. Read more
Published 1 month ago by movedbymortensen
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent read.
Arrived promptly, an excellent read.
Published 3 months ago by Mr. M. G. Blake
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, fascinating - thoroughly recommended
An incredibly rich, insightful piece of non-fiction that addresses the vast majority of questions you would ask yourself as a contemporary art enthusiast. Thoroughly recommended.
Published 3 months ago by Eva
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and entertaining
Great insight into the commercial world of art and how the economics work at the very top end. As an art critic, and an economist in a former life, I found this to be an engrossing... Read more
Published 5 months ago by TK
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy Kindle edition
This is a terrible book on the Kindle. You want to access the pictures when they are referenced and it's made really difficult, as it isn't an easy page turn, as with the... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Zedbed
1.0 out of 5 stars Exposes the sordid truth but seems to be proud of it?!!
So yes this book is as "Sensationalist" as the art it describes.
In summary, this book describes the institutionalised corruption in the art world and why obscene prices for... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Japchap
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharks abound
This is an amusing and comprehensive review of the Art business. It is a lot cheaper than the Christies Art Business course but less academic, it is also enlivened by accounts of... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Gethin Darklord
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into the economics of contemporary art - well...
Don Thompson took on the phenomenon of contemporary art, and more importantly the very hair raising prices achieved for some of the pieces (where on occassion your average observer... Read more
Published on 13 May 2012 by AK
4.0 out of 5 stars The problem of "Store of Value" for Very High Net Worth people
The recent past has seen a massive increase in inequality of assets and incomes on a global scale. Such surplus wealth needs to be invested safely. Read more
Published on 5 Feb 2012 by N. Ragavan
3.0 out of 5 stars $12 Million Stuffed Shark.
How is it that a stuffed shark or an unmade bed can be worth millions? Don Thompson explains the economics of the modern art world. Read more
Published on 14 Sep 2011 by Gordon Ross
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