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5 Best Reads on Contemporary Art Collecting

Written By: Donna MacMullin |

Are you curious about why some artwork sells for millions while others sell for mere thousands? Or why some artists make it big while others are grinding it out in their local studio? Making sense of the art world can be tricky. These five books offer great insight on how this crazy business works.

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

Findlay is an art dealer based in New York. His background includes starting one of Soho's first galleries in the mid-1960s, Christie's auction houses during the '80s art boom and more recently working alongside gallerists at Acquavella Galleries on the Upper East Side. He will help you understand how value is placed on artwork and learn to enjoy your collection in a deep and meaningful way.


2. Collecting Contemporary Art (By Adam Lindemann)

Lindemann is a private investor and a prominent collector of contemporary art and design. He also writes a monthly column on collecting for The New York Observer. This is a great insider’s guide to building your own collection, including high-quality imagery from leading artists, essentials of collecting such as best times to buy and how to navigate art fairs. BONUS: exclusive insider interviews with major gallerists.


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

Ethan Wagner is an avid art collector. Through his Art Advisory business, he investigates the international art market on behalf of clients, and publishes artists' books. Thea Westreich Wagner has advised private collectors throughout the United States and Europe for 35 years. This book offers an insider’s perspective on collecting, advice on adding a layer of business-smarts to the pleasure of buying art, and how to make the most out of the buying experience. BONUS: an outline of history’s most important collectors.


4. Seven Days in the Art World (By Sarah Thornton)

Thorton is a writer and sociologist of culture who has written about the contemporary art market for publications including The Economist, The Sunday Times Magazine and The New Yorker. Her book includes tips for buying and collecting, highlights on real world situations collectors might face when navigating venues for buying art such as a Christie’s auction, a studio visit with artist Takashi Murakami, the inner workings of the Art Basel art fair, and a behind the scenes look at Artforum magazine.


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

Thompson is a Toronto-based economist and professor of Marketing and Strategy at the Schulich School of Business at York University and the Harvard Business School. He writes on the economics of the art market for publications as diverse as The Times (London), Harper’s Magazine, and The Art Economist. The book is an insider’s look at the economics, marketing strategies and ego behind some of the astronomical prices paid for art. It offers first-hand experience with different points of purchase in the art world, from the private dealer to the auction house, leaving you with a detailed explanation of how artwork is bought and sold on the secondary market. This is a wild read!

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