10 Art Books every artist and curator should read

Published Sep, 2017

Navigating the art world can be frustrating and confusing. It does not matter if you have a fine art degree, an art history degree, or even a creative or art business degree. The art world is vast and fast changing and universities never give actual practical knowledge about the ins and outs of the various local and global art markets. These are the books to help you figure stuff out.


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

By Don Thompson

Why would an intelligent banker give away $12 million in exchange for a stuffed carcass of a shark? Or why would Jackson Pollock’s drip painting “No. 5, 1948 “sell for $140 million? This book is both fascinating and entertaining. It takes a ‘Freakonomics’ approach to dissect the economics and psychology of modern-day art world. It helps to uncover why record prices for art were attained by 131 modern day artists in the year 2006 alone, while even better prices were achieved in the year 2007. The book explores the reasons why certain work is considered high value while the other goes unnoticed.


The Supermodel and the Brillo Box: Back Stories and Peculiar Economics from the World of Contemporary Art

By Don Thompson

In 2008, Thompson’s book The $12 Million Stuffed Shark began the story. With this follow-up, he uses anecdotes, insights, and armies of facts about deals and auction houses, artists and collectors, the new markets and the old money to convey an art world of baffling, though fascinating, complexity.


Selling Contemporary Art: How to Navigate the Evolving Market

By Edward Winkleman

A sophisticated examination of today’s contemporary art market from an art dealer’s point of view, this book focuses on recent changes in the quickly evolving market. With an emphasis on how the market responded to the global recession that began in 2008, the book includes a wide range of interviews with international experts including dealers, collectors, art-fair directors, journalists, and online art entrepreneurs.


Seven Days in the Art World

By Sarah Thornton

A sharp and entertaining fly-on-the-wall account of the art world from behind the scenes, showing us the complicated and unorthodox rules that make up the art world, from art school to auction house, and giving us a vivid sense of being there. Set in New York, Basel, London, Venice, Tokyo and Los Angeles the book seeks to shed light on the deeper workings of the complex subcultures that constitute the present day art world.


How to Sell Your Art Online: Live a Successful Creative Life on Your Own Terms

By Cory Huff

An essential guide for every kind of artist that teaches them how to find their niche, connect directly with collectors and buyers, and sell what they make. Using successful artists’ stories as examples, thoroughly explaining how art is sold today, and providing tips on how to build connections and use social media, Huff illustrates the countless ways to take control over a creative career.


Big Bucks: The Explosion of the Art Market

By Georgina Adam

In 1987, Van Gogh's Sunflowers sold at auction at Christie's for just under £25m, then the highest price ever fetched for a painting. "There are only 10-15 people in the world, and the Getty Museum, who can afford that sort of money," one dealer observed at the time, as the buyer's identity remained concealed.

The expansion of global wealth comes illustrated even more sharply by one anecdote in Georgina Adam's new book Big Bucks. Christie's didn't use paddles for that auction: they weren't introduced until 1988, one Christie's dealer recounted to Adam. The circle of people rich enough to be bidding for Van Dyck and Van Gogh was still so small that the auctioneer knew everyone in the room by name. (The Sunflowers was sold to a telephone bidder for a company in Japan.)


I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon)

By Richard Polsky

When a collector should sell a picture is a major decision with a laundry list of factors to take into consideration, like the strength of the market, trends in the art world, time of year, and personal financial need. Art dealer Richard Polsky shares a personal story of when selling a work can go wrong in his tale about letting go of Andy Warhol’s Fright Wigin 2005, only to have the picture soar in value exponentially over the following two years. Polsky offers this missive as an illustration of the explosive pricing that the art market has experienced since the mid-2000s.


I'd Rather Be in the Studio: The Artist's No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion

By Alyson Stanfield

Alyson Stanfield, an art marketing expert, and consultant wrote this book to help you get your art out of the studio and into the spotlight. Her advice is to the point and practical.  If you follow her format for success, you will find success.


Lucky Kunst: The Rise and Fall of Young British Art

By Gregor Muir

"Ever feel like you've been cheated?" Johnny Rotten asked his audience in 1978. Lucky Kunst, an insider's account of the rise and fall of the YBAs (Young British Artists), has something of the same smirking audacity, inviting you to look back at Damien's shark, Tracey's tent, Sarah Lucas's Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab - and wonder why you fell for any of it.


How to Approach a Gallery

By Jenny Judova

This is a shameless plug as this book was written by Art Map’s founder Jenny Judova. But don’t take our word for it read the Amazon reviews:

“I've been waiting for this book for a while and it has been well worth the wait! As an artist when we leave university everything seems invisible and progress seems impossible. There isn't much idea what to do or how to go about it. Thankfully though this is where this book steps in. After this book, things seem to make more sense. It explains fully the hierarchy of galleries as well as ways to approach them. Just these two bits of information are important enough. From reading this book, as an artist, understanding the framework of galleries is very important as it allows me to figure what to do next in terms of what to do. I, like others, have made the mistake of heading to galleries portfolio in hand then leaving confused when I realize it's not that easy. This book, however, tells you there are differences in galleries and it is important to know them. Knowing these differences is paramount to allowing yourself to know what path and direction you want to take.” By Jack

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