Synopses & Reviews
A behind-the-scenes look at the egomaniacs, geniuses, and canny promoters who shaped the world of modern art and created the largest unregulated financial market in the world.
Before Damien Hirst stuffed a shark, before Basquiat picked up a spray can, before Andy Warhol started The Factory, a pile of unwanted Jackson Pollocks changed everything. From them emerged the first major modern art dealer. It was 1947, and the art world would never be the same.
From the early days on 57th Street, to the rise of SoHo in the 60s, to the emergence of Chelsea as the hotbed of art galleries, we see the meteoric rise and the devastating falls of the most renowned dealers: Larry Gagosian, David Zwirner, Arne Glimcher, and Iwan Wirth. With unparalleled access, the longtime Vanity Fair reporter tells us the story of contemporary art through the people who coddled, supported, and funded the likes of Jeff Koons, and Cy Twombly.
It's a story of backstabbing, betrayals, fruitful partnerships, genius, and ever larger sums of money. The world of contemporary art is inextricable from the wild wealth and naked financial opportunism that surrounds it.
The meteoric rise of the largest unregulated financial market in the world -- for contemporary art -- is driven by a few passionate, guileful, and very hard-nosed dealers. They can make and break careers and fortunes.
The contemporary art market is an international juggernaut, throwing off multimillion-dollar deals as wealthy buyers move from fair to fair, auction to auction, party to glittering party. But none of it would happen without the dealers-the tastemakers who back emerging artists and steer them to success, often to see them picked off by a rival.
Dealers operate within a private world of handshake agreements, negotiating for the highest commissions. Michael Shnayerson, a longtime contributing editor to Vanity Fair, writes the first ever definitive history of their activities. He has spoken to all of today's so-called mega dealers -- Larry Gagosian, David Zwirner, Arne and Marc Glimcher, and Iwan Wirth -- along with dozens of other dealers -- from Irving Blum to Gavin Brown -- who worked with the greatest artists of their times: Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, and more.
This kaleidoscopic history begins in the mid-1940s in genteel poverty with a scattering of galleries in midtown Manhattan, takes us through the ramshackle 1950s studios of Coenties Slip, the hipster locations in SoHo and Chelsea, London's Bond Street, and across the terraces of Art Basel until today. Now, dealers and auctioneers are seeking the first billion-dollar painting. It hasn't happened yet, but they are confident they can push the price there soon.