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on 5 January 2014
I bought this after reading excellent press reviews. It deserves them. Philip Hook gives an entertaining guide to what drives prices for artwork and artists, based on 35 years of experience, mostly at Sotheby's and Christie's. Many conclusions are fun, essentially that people pay more for works that look good on walls (including one buyer who wanted a Matisse that matched the blue his wife was painting the walls with); so prices are higher for bright colours, attractive people and popular subjects - apparently railways are particularly popular, go for big but not too big to fit through the front door, and Impressionists are so partly so pricey because they used pleasing colours - his suggestions for the most popular exhibitions imaginable are 'Monet: Colour and Light' and 'Picasso's Women'.

He has made the book as easy to read as possible. It has five sections ('Wall Power', 'Market Weather' etc) each broken up into short lively sections - for example on Nazi Germany's censorship of 'degenerate' art, or the economics of art theft. He mixes analysis and anecdotes - such as setting himself on fire trying to light a client's cigarette. Far from precious about art he mocks the art world - including a Glossary of pretentious terms ('Challenging: obscure, incomprehensible or unpleasant'). I raced through the whole thing in a couple of days, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

I sometimes felt I would have liked two different books - one of more thorough analysis of the art market, one just of his anecdotes. But by putting them together, he both gave me an excellent read and made sure I will think differently next time I hear what a piece of art has sold for.
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on 19 April 2014
I'm always amused by other people's reviews, especially when they diverge as much as they do here.
I think crediting this book with a laugh on every page says more about the reviewer (very easily amused) than the book, though its cool irony is undoubtedly fun. Similarly at the other end, an inability to recognise and appreciate the worth of its authoritative survey suggests personal bias.
Have you noticed one very regular characteristic of furious reviewers? They often have trouble with spelling. Is this because they are so bubbling with spite that they lose the ability to write english? Or is it a symptom of why they couldn't appreciate the book in the first place?
As a saleroom regular, I strongly recommend it for dipping into, rather than for reading straight through. There is a lot of very interesting analysis, some of it quite pointed for anyone who collects art without asking why.
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on 6 April 2017
A very well-written insider's view of Sotheby's, organized in an alphabetical form, arranged by certain subject areas. It is a book that is easy to dip into, but I certainly read it straight through and enjoyed it very much.
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on 20 May 2017
Interesting
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on 27 March 2017
Great book
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on 14 January 2014
I bought this for my son in law a former antiques dealer, but couldn't resist a read. It was witty and amusing and full of insider detail.
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VINE VOICEon 5 December 2013
I was trying to think of the best way of describing this engaging and highly readable book, and the word I decided upon was idiosyncratic. I don't think it fits easily into a particular category. Part auction guide to buying and selling, part critique of artists, paintings and movements it really brings to life the art world the author has inhabited for over three decades. Want to know how a painting' s value is determined or why punters (the terminology is mine not Philip Hook' s) spend the money they do then you can do no better read than this marevellously entertaining tome (I do have one minor criticism, and I acknowledge this is a personal foible but I really wish the text had been justified on both sides and not the left only). Highly recommended.
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on 5 February 2017
When I received this book there was pages with edges missing and the back was folded really badly.It is also very badly printed, it has useful information but not worth the price at all considering the poor condition of the book.
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on 17 December 2013
This book received a good review in The Arts Fund newsletter and on the strength of that recommendation I decided that it would make an ideal Christmas present for my art collecting son-in-law. On arrival I skimmed through the book and wasn't disappointed. It appears to live up to all expectations. I'll be ordering another copy for myself and look forward to a more in depth read.
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on 17 June 2014
Really loving the book. As someone who is interested in transitioning into the world of art (including the sales and resales of art) and arts management, I find his insights about what makes an artist sell/appreciate in value particularly interesting. Hook's writing is intelligent, witty and easy to digest.

Highly recommend it to anyone who is wishing to dip into this world, learn how to make informed art purchases or who likes a good art-related anecdote. Excellent book!
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