7 essential books on collecting art

Whether a newbie or a seasoned pro, navigating the art scene as a collector can be both frustrating and rewarding. To help make it easier to build a collection of meaning and value, we have put together a list of seven books that reveal the processes and practices of art collecting.

Collecting Art for Love, Money and More (2013)
By Ethan Wagner & Thea Westreich Wagner

Arranged into ten topics that are approached through a key question and answer format, art advisors Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner offer an accessible yet unrivalled insider’s view into the often opaque world of collecting art, drawing from their extensive experience in working with collectors and institutions of contemporary art.

Get it here.


A Poor Collector’s Guide to Buying Great Art (2015)
By Erling Kagge

A Poor Collector’s Guide to Buying Great Art provides relief and offers sound advice to those who want to buy art but don’t know how or where to do it. They might have preferences in terms of styles or techniques, but they’re not familiar with how the buying process works. Perhaps they already have specific pieces in mind but don’t yet trust the rules of the art market —if such rules actually exist. What does someone actually need to know to prevent their personal tastes from leading them to make the wrong investment decisions? On his way to becoming a passionate art collector himself, Norwegian adventurer Erling Kagge had to learn these ropes and answer this exact question.

Get it here.


Art Collecting Today: Market Insights for Everyone Passionate about Art (2017)
By Doug Woodham

Grounded in real-life stories, Art Collecting Today is the essential practical guide to today’s art market. A lightly regulated industry with more than sixty billion dollars of annual sales, the art market is often opaque and confusing to even the most experienced collectors. But whether a seasoned collector, an uninitiated newcomer, or an art-world insider, readers will learn within these pages how the art marketplace works in practice and how to navigate it smartly. Those who may have been put off by art-world practices will finally feel they have the knowledge needed to participate freely and fully, and collectors will be able to pursue their passion with more confidence.

Get it here.


Could Have, Would Have, Should Have: Inside the World of the Art Collector (2016)
By Tiqui Atencio

What does it take to be a serious art collector? What drives someone to go after a particular work, regardless of the cost? Tiqui Atencio has been collecting since she was 18 years old; decades later, she is one of the most prominent collectors of contemporary art. For Could Have, Should Have, Would Have, Atencio has interviewed more than 80 of the world’s most influential collectors―from financiers to artists―and asked them to tell their own story of how they started collecting and what continues to motivate them. What emerges is a frank and honest, surprising and eye-opening account of a lifelong dedication that is described by some as a heroic commitment and by others as a crazy sickness. Cartoons throughout the book by celebrated artist and satirist Pablo Helguera complement the humorous and anecdotal tone of the text.

Get it here.


The Value of Art: Money, Power, Beauty (2014)
By Michael Findlay

In The Value of Art, internationally renowned art dealer and market expert Michael Findlay offers a lively and authoritative tour of the art world informed by almost a half-century in the business and a passion for great art. With style and wry wit, Findlay explores how art acquires value—both commercial and social—and how these values circulate among the artists, dealers, and collectors that comprise today’s complex and constantly evolving art world. In the process he demystifies how art is bought and sold while also constantly looking beyond sales figures to emphasize the primacy of art’s essential, noncommercial worth. Coloring his account with wise advice, insider anecdotes involving scoundrels and scams, stories of celebrity collectors, and remarkable discoveries, Findlay has distilled a lifetime’s experience in this indispensible guide for today’s art lover.

Get it here.


The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art (2010)
By Don Thompson

Why would a smart New York investment banker pay $12 million for the decaying, stuffed carcass of a shark? By what alchemy does Jackson Pollock’s drip painting “No. 5, 1948 “sell for $140 million?

Intriguing and entertaining, “The $12 Million Stuffed Shark” is a “Freakonomics” approach to the economics and psychology of the contemporary art world. Why were record prices achieved at auction for works by 131 contemporary artists in 2006 alone, with astonishing new heights reached in 2007? Don Thompson explores the money, lust, and self-aggrandizement of the art world in an attempt to determine what makes a particular work valuable while others are ignored.

Get it here.

The A-Z of the International Art Market: The Essential Guide to Customs, Conventions and Practice
By Tom Flynn

It is estimated that there are over 300,000 companies involved in the world’s art market, employing around 2.8 million people. But the art world carries a veneer of mystery and secrecy that many people find daunting, and the language used by market insiders can be alienating and confusing to those new to the art market.

The A-Z of the International Art Market not only clarifies useful terms and definitions, but also represents a significant contribution to the fast-developing processes of transparency and democratisation in the global art business. Comprising art market terms and core concepts – both historical and contemporary – this book is a long-awaited reference source that offers a unique introduction to a dynamic business sector.

The A-Z of the International Art Market provides an accessible and thorough insight into critical areas of market practice and custom that anyone involved in the art market will find useful and enlightening.

Get it here.

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