$12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art

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"Why would a very smart New York investment banker pay $12 million for the decaying, stuffed carcass of a shark? By what alchemy does Jackson Pollock's drip painting No. 5, 1948 sell for $140 million? And why does a leather jacket with silver chain attached, tossed in a corner and titled 'No-One Ever Leaves', bring $690,000 at a 2007 Sotheby's auction?" This intriguing and entertaining book is the first to look at the economics of the modern art world and the marketing strategies which power the market to produce such astronomical prices for the

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The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art

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Overview

"Why would a very smart New York investment banker pay $12 million for the decaying, stuffed carcass of a shark? By what alchemy does Jackson Pollock's drip painting No. 5, 1948 sell for $140 million? And why does a leather jacket with silver chain attached, tossed in a corner and titled 'No-One Ever Leaves', bring $690,000 at a 2007 Sotheby's auction?" This intriguing and entertaining book is the first to look at the economics of the modern art world and the marketing strategies which power the market to produce such astronomical prices for the latest Hirst, Koons or Emin. Don Thompson talks to auction houses, dealers and collectors, and reveals the psychology behind the art market, showing how far it is driven by lust and self-aggrandizement of possession. It is a world, the author shows, in which brand is all-important, and which in many ways has most in common with the branded world of luxury fashion. The result is a fascinating, shrewd and highly readable insight into a modern-day phenomenon. In contemporary art, you are nobody until somebody brands you.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Informative and occasionally hilarious look at the surreal contemporary art market. This world has been fodder for mockery ever since Marcel Duchamp signed a urinal and proclaimed it art, but there's a whole lot more money at stake now, notes Thompson (Marketing and Economics/York Univ.). He bravely attempts to apply theories of basic economics and markets to the contemporary art scene, in which absurdity frequently rules. Evincing astute knowledge of the arcane workings of high-end art galleries and auction houses, the author walks readers through the mechanics of how a contemporary artist's work comes to be regarded as worthy of notice. Among the factors at play, Thompson avers, the artwork's quality is rarely prominent. Indeed, he notes, many of the pieces discussed-from Francis Bacon's disquieting studies of morbidity to Jeff Koons's glossy essays in camp-are not what most people would want to display in their homes or offices. The text makes it clear that who wants to buy a piece of art and how much they are willing pay for it matter more than its actual content. Damien Hirst-the artist who got $12 million for a shark packed with formaldehyde and mounted in a glass case-would probably be nobody if he had not been noticed by the right dealers and thus "branded" to the super-rich as an artist of note. "You are nobody in contemporary art until you have been branded," declares Thompson. He makes no judgment about this fact, but simply notes the absurdities, categorizes them and moves on. Sticking to the numbers leads him to a simple conclusion: "Art is neither a good investment nor an efficient investment vehicle."A clear-headed approach to a frequently high-pitched issue. First printingof 40,000
From the Publisher
"Don Thompson has written, by far, the best book on the economics of the contemporary art market yet written."—Felix Salmon, Portfolio.com

"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 days…it’s called the $12 Million Stuffed Shark.” —Richard Morrison, The Times (London)

"…it’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…" —The Economist.com

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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781845134075
  • Publisher: Aurum Press, Limited
  • Publication date: 2/28/2011
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Don Thompson teaches marketing and economics in the MBA program at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. He has taught at the London School of Economics and at Harvard Business School. He lives in London and Toronto.

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Table of Contents

Green and wrinkled and twelve million 1

Branding and insecurity 9

Branded auctions 19

Branded dealers 29

The art of the dealer 45

Art and artists 57

Damien Hirst and the shark 67

Warhol, Koons and Emin 79

Charles Saatchi: Branded collector 93

Christie's and Sotheby's 103

Choosing an auction hammer 113

Auction psychology 129

The secret world of auctions 145

Francis Bacon's perfect portrait 161

Auction houses versus dealers 173

Art fairs: The final frontier 185

Art and money 195

Pricing contemporary art 207

Fakes 219

Art critics 227

Museums 233

End game 245

Contemporary art as an investment 257

References 275

Art websites 279

Photo credits 281

Index 283

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    It was a nice read

    I am just getting into Art and the investing side. The Fine Art market and the Contemporary Art market are definitely two different markets. It has helped me being more choosy in what I like and what I can afford.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Swim with the sharks: making sense of contemporary art

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted May 12, 2011

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    Posted December 16, 2010

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    Posted August 5, 2010

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