Short Review #7: Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers and the Rise of Contemporary Art by Michael Shnayerson (2019)

Review – 4 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers and the Rise of Contemporary Art
Author: Michael Shnayerson
Published: 2019, 1st Edition (PublicAffairs, New York)
Pages: 450 (Hardcover)
Genres: Nonfiction, Art Business, Contemporary Art, Art History, Economics
Link Here

Sitting outside reading Boom during the early evening

I hope everyone is continuing to stay well! This week, I read something very different than what I normally read and write about on the blog. I read Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers and the Rise of Contemporary Art. Based on interviews from over 200 art world persons and research, Boom is a detailed history and evaluation of contemporary art starting in the 1940s to 2019. The author, Shnayerson, is not a typical art market or historical expert who writes books about the art world, like Don Thompson the economist who wrote The $12 Million Stuffed Shark. Shnayerson is a journalist and contributing editor to Vanity Fair, and has written several books about a variety of subjects, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and GM (source). This may explain why Boom gave me a different impression than typical art history and market books with an evaluation and thesis. The style felt more like a very long news article or celebrity biography based on his own research and interviews.

‘I mean, nobody really needs a painting… It’s something you kind of create value for in a way that you don’t with a company. It’s an act of collective faith what an object is worth. Maintaining that value system is part of what a dealer does, not just making a transaction, but making sure that important art feels important‘” – Larry Gagosian, Michael Shnayerson, Boom: Mad Money…

Why was I interested in reading this book, you may ask? My background and how I make a living is actually in art. I don’t reveal a lot of personal stuff about my life on here or social media, but I studied art history in my undergrad and have read extensively about art related subjects, and the art market. When this book was recommended to me, I decided I had to read it.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a little dense at times, but honestly, if you’re looking for a detailed explanation of contemporary art, this is a good start. I took away new information on certain figures and scandals that I had not come across, and discovered more details of certain events that I knew previously. The book is a well-rounded history and explanation of the economics, market, legalities, politics and drama surrounding contemporary art since its beginning. I would not consider this book essential reading as an intro to contemporary art, but it is a valuable perspective and sufficient if you’re looking to expand upon your art knowledge. If you’re not interested in the art world or art, do not read this book. But maybe that’s a given…

I give this book a 4 out of 5!


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