Art World by Barbara Guggenheim

Art World by Barbara Guggenheim


A consummate insider demystifies the nebulous cosmos
of buying and selling art.

“While most who choose to read this volume will have visited a museum, few will have gained entry into the inner sanctums of art appreciation. Guggenheim has lived her life in those occluded quarters—she has a doctorate in art history from Columbia and has worked at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and the Whitney Museum of American Art—and so is ideally positioned to furnish a ‘backstage pass into the art world.’ Her first book, examining ‘one of the last unregulated fields,’ is eclectically structured: it is one part instructional guide and one part work of history, all written in an almost confessional tone, exposing closely guarded secrets.

ART WORLD covers a broad spectrum of subjects, including buying art at an auction, appraising a work as an investment, framing a piece owned, and deciding what to do with the treasure if the collector falls out of love with it or divorces. Sprinkled throughout the volume are historical vignettes—always insightful and expressed in breezy, unpretentious prose. The world of art turns out to be as bewilderingly complex as it is delightful: ‘Making your way through the art world is like picking wild mushrooms: it’s not always easy to differentiate what’s okay from what’s deadly.’

Guggenheim is at the height of her powers explaining the basics of a prudent purchase; she adeptly explains the process that involves the messy intersection of art, commerce, and the navigation of a cliquey and closed universe. And while Guggenheim’s notion of what a budget comprises is likely miles apart from the average reader’s, she still delivers useful advice for the less affluent on how to think about art buying. The whole work, more than a how-to textbook, is really a passionate defense of the place of art in life—every page rings with Guggenheim’s devotion to what is undoubtedly a calling, if a particularly lucrative one for her.”

- Kirkus Review

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