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The Value of Art: Money, Power, Beauty Paperback – Illustrated, 24 Feb 2014
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In this straightforward book, art dealer and market expert Michael Findlay presents a close up personal view of almost fifty years in the business of art... With narrative and wise advice, insider anecdotes and tales of scoundrels and scams, this generously illustrated book is a must for all appreciators of art. Book Time Magazine March 2012 --ARTnews, May 2012
About the Author
Michael Findlay One of the earliest dealers in SoHo, New York, he showcased major emerging artists including John Baldessari, Joseph Beuys, and Hannah Wilke. Named Head of Impressionist and Modern Paintings at Christie's in 1984, he later became its International Director of Fine Arts. Since 2000 he has been a director at Acquavella Galleries, New York, which in recent years has held major exhibitions of important Impressionist, modern, and contemporary masters.
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He is particularly good on big art auctions, on which he worked for many years.
A very useful book to read if you are interested in the art world.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Michael Findlay, the author, is a world-weary expert on this terrain. As an art dealer he has seen much and has firm opinions, many of the latter to which I agree (dislike of museum headphones for taped explanations of paintings; too few places for one to sit for contemplation of works in the art galleries of museums; contempt for Damien Hirst; and that one should take the time to "see.").
The basic thrust of the book is to describe the three individual aspects--not mutually exclusive--that create a work's value for an art buyer: the chance for an increased monetary return based on a future resale; the social uplift in owning a piece of great art; and one's internal appreciation of pure beauty. Not surprisingly, Mr. Findlay favors pure beauty.
One drawback: I think this book will be dated in too soon of time, given a good deal of its discussion is on the results of quite recent art auctions.
For those looking for a book by a magnificent modern art collector, one who Mr. Findlay mentions with approval, I suggest "Memories of a Collector" by Giuseppe Panza.
Findlay explains that the market value of a work of art is based on five attributes: provenance, condition, authenticity, exposure, and quality. A key message is that art collectors should buy what they like to look at. Any potential increase in market value is speculation.
He explains that the market is cyclical, and people who view art purely as an investment appear when the market is hot. "There is an adage among old hands in the art world that the emergence of art investment funds signals that a boom is over." He points out that more than half of the art market is transacted in private sales. While art funds, art indexes, and art economists claim to analyze the market data, only the auction results are publicly available. "How can one measure and consequently predict activity in a market 52 percent of which is essentially invisible? ... I have little faith in crystal balls disguised as charts."
Findlay points out that auction prices are not a reliable indicator of market value; "an auction result actually represents a unique set of circumstances at a specific point in time." He cites an example of two similar Picasso pieces sold at auction within months of each other. The first sold for close to $6 million, but the second sold for $1 million less. The author speculates that two collectors were bidding in the first auction, but there was only one buyer left in the second auction, so he purchased for close to the reserve price.
"Ideally interest in art starts with a social experience." The author recalls two contrasting experiences. One day he observed a group of uniformed private-school students in a museum. One student was standing in front of a painting, reciting "a litany of biographical facts and art historical clichés" to a group classmates who looked bored out of their minds. In another case he observed a very excited group of eight-year-olds. The teacher was asking them simple questions: "What do you see? What does it look like? What does it make you think of? How does it make you feel? ... The kids were all having great fun competing to express their ideas about the painting... They were completely engaged, fully enthralled... For a properly managed class clustered around a painting or sculpture in a museum, the art can come to life. Reduced to a recitation of facts and other people's opinions, it can die."
In the 1960s, one of the author's clients loaned some art to John Powers, president of Prentice-Hall. After the art was hung in the company cafeteria Powers said, "The effect on morale was great. Overnight I became a convert to the power that art has to move people and bring them together." The author also explains that a corporate art collection can become "a substantial public-relations asset" if it is exhibited and loaned.
Art collectors like to talk about the circumstances of acquiring their art. "When it comes to contemporary art, direct contact with the artist often adds to the price of the work and is of course a social experience with memorable dinner-table conversation value for the buyer."
The intrinsic value of art is about "the private enjoyment of contemplating the work itself." When visiting a museum, the author recommends looking at the art "without wasting time on the labels... Sooner or later something will grab your attention, so stare at it for a good long time, not just five minutes... after twenty minutes things start to happen, and what you thought you knew about the work will start to be replaced by what you are actually seeing."
"If I look at a work of art and it leaves me cold, what can I hear or read about it that will profoundly change my attitude? If I look at a work of art and I am profoundly moved, what can I hear or read about it what matters more?"
"Painting, sculpture, drawing, and other visual media on the highest level represents the creation of a language that is not read or spoken. It is comprehended with the eyes, the mind, and what we might call the heart, our internal capacity to be deeply moved."