When the art world became the art market
Art Business

When the art world became the art market

Michael Shnayerson’s “Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art” leaves me less impressed by the state of the art and more concerned for the fate of art. Shnayerson, a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, sums up the book’s message: “Sometime in the late 1990s, a fundamental change occurred.” One word replaced another: “The art world, in all its manifestations, became an art market.” In a well-researched narrative, drawing on scores of interviews with dealers, curators, artists, and critics, Shnayerson details this transformation. He begins in the 1940s, when heiress Peggy Guggenheim showed paintings by Jackson Pollock and artists who became known as abstract expressionists. In the 1950s, as the center of the avant-garde shifted from Paris to New York, Betty Parsons and Sidney Janis represented giants like Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko. The story takes off when the suave Leo Castelli (aided by the keen eye of his wife Ileana) established his gallery in 1957 and nurtured artists he discovered like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, pop artists like Andy Warhol, minimalists and conceptual artists. In contrast to the current “monetization” of art, Castelli – the foremost contemporary art dealer for five […]

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