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

ISBN: 0230610226
   Available on Amazon

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If you're interested in this, I highly recommend the book The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics Of Contemporary Art. As the promo blurb says, it's a Freakonomics-style look the art world, covering artists, deals, collectors, and auction houses. A ton of insight into how all the psychology of it fits together.

https://www.amazon.com/Million-Stuffed-Shark-Economics-Conte...


Original thread

While I've read and enjoyed the book you recommend, it doesn't actually explain the economics of the art world, more likely the relationships that develop. For a much more informed look you should try "The 12 Million Stuffed Shark" which is written by an economist.

https://www.amazon.com/Million-Stuffed-Shark-Economics-Conte...

As for the rest, the market isn't exactly manipulated, as the article implies, but if you bother to ask any collector they'll complain that prices are high. And this happens for two reasons. One is that there is very low supply of available art of non-contemporary era since museums are popping everywhere and they buy pretty much everything available. The other is that art has become an investment which leads a lot of rich people buying art pieces at great volumes.

We live in an era where you pay $5k to buy a giclee Murakami painting printed in a high-end printer and that if you're lucky enough because a limited edition of 50 copies could sell out in a couple of days.


Original thread

Dead sharks are worth a lot of money in the art world: http://www.amazon.com/The-Million-Stuffed-Shark-Contemporary...
Original thread

Look at finance for more data.

I personally know many successful traders and managers who live very quiet, middle class lives despite having the means to do much more (usually because they get their kicks off business success, not consumption). Cf stereotype of the Swiss billionaire in jeans driving a beaten up Volvo. The head of a derivatives desk in the London HQ of a global bank used to drive a 10 year old hatchback to the office and lived in Zone 2 or 3 in the same house he bought as an immigrant with his first years' savings. Obviously, these guys don't appear in press releases. I would argue they are also relatively rare.

However, on the work hard play hard side, you can name literally hundreds of Gordon Gekko types like S. Cohen who bought Hirst's famous $8m stuffed shark or S. Schwarzman who likes to put his name on entire museum wings around the world. Some very driven people have more intense fun on the side and the only thing that matters to the VC/FOF is a. the possible ROIs under different scenarios and b. the probability of each happening; to calculate the NPV and therefore desirability of the investment. Some of the more extreme characters from this world are documented in "Richistan" [1] and "The $12m stuffed shark" [2]. The common trait amongst the "nouveau riche" is that they are intensely focused and good at their work, not letting their fun permeate.

If I had spare capital right now, I would happily take the other side of your trade; I'm pretty sure that spending behaviour (hard fun, tendency to consumerism, whatever you want to formalize it as), all else being equal, is not predictive of success, just as with race, gender and maybe even education or age (adjusted for experience).

As for the original subject, I think a lot of people who grew up well off or have had a few years to build some security do not realize how valuable those early marginal dollars are to someone without connections and a rich daddy. A "normal" person might well take 5 years to save the $100-200k necessary for a safe bootstrap; if they fail, they're back to the grind for another 5, delaying kids and life accordingly. It is perfectly rational for the founders to attempt to circumvent that if the market generously offers the opportunity, by taking out enough cash for a few trials should this one not work out.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Richistan-Journey-Through-American-Wea...

[2] http://www.amazon.com/The-Million-Stuffed-Shark-Contemporary...


Original thread

If you find this guy interesting, you should read the $12 Million Stuffed Shark: http://www.amazon.com/The-Million-Stuffed-Shark-Contemporary...
Original thread

For anyone who thinks they might ever own art, first, I highly recommend it. I love art. I don't even know why. But it makes me happy. I think what it comes down to is pride and satisfaction that in some way, my society has makers, one of whom made this thing to put it in the world, ultimately. That's the only reason it was made. Art is art. And everything else, is everything else.

Second, read Don Thompson's The Twelve Million Dollar Stuffed Shark.* He's an economist who took a deep dive into the very dysfunctional world of expensive art. What he leaves you with is a better understanding of the situation: screw investment. Saatchi buys art because he loves art. Yes, he's built a fortune on it, but he also has the largest collection of undisplayed art, and it's estimated the average value of any piece in his collection may be no more than the world-wide average. But he plays his role well, and his role, an ad man, integrates very well with the scene.

If you want art, buy it. But I recommend buying local. Art is the ultimate buy-local situation. My brother is an artist. That's as local as it gets. And his is the best art I own.

I'm starting to realize a little of Saatchi's situation: if you want to show, really show, those favorite pieces, then you have to give them a lot of wall space. Which means a lot of stuff, good stuff, ends up in crates. You realize you're willing to sell it just because it breaks your heart for it to not be shown. But you'll be damned before you let it hang on a wall where it wouldn't be appreciated at all.

If you don't know many artists (if it wasn't for my brother's inside access, I would know none), I think this Amazon Fine Art thing is a fine place to start. Check the under $200 category. There's some really great pieces in there.

The other things are craigslist and gallery mailing lists. Sign up. You'll learn if your city tends to do openings on Wednesdays, Thursdays, etc. The whole scene tends to get into sync. Meet some artists. If you have something particular, a desk, a portrait, I don't know many artists who are unwilling to work on commission. Guaranteed money is hard to come by in the art world.

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*http://www.amazon.com/The-Million-Stuffed-Shark-Contemporary...


Original thread

Reposting an old comment. The art world obeys supply and demand - where demand has no relation to the real world:

If you are more curious about the contemporary art world market and why $29M is not that expensive[1], I recommend "The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art".

In general, brand (in this case Christie's and Sotheby's) ranks supreme above all else. Once you are branded, you can pretty much sell anything as expensive art.

Also, an interesting factoid - when we hear of Far East/Middle East buyers bidding tens of millions (or more) for a painting, we naturally tend to think - who buys that without seeing it - but as the book points out - the painting has most likely gone to see the buyer already (e.g. Dubai/Hong Kong pre-auction private tour).

Excerpts from the book:

"Money itself has little meaning in the upper echelons of the art world -- everyone has it. What impresses is ownership of a rare and treasured work such as Jasper Johns' 1958 White Flag. The person who owns it (currently Michael Ovitz in Los Angeles) is above the art crowd, untouchable. What the rich seem to want to acquire is what economists call positional good; things that prove to the rest of the world that they really are rich."

Jasper Johns' White Flag

http://michaelovitz.blogspot.com/2011/04/weve-featured-this-...

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1998.329

Estimates on the artist economy:

"40k artists resident in London (about same number in NYC)

For London and NYC each:

75 superstar artists (>$1M/yr income)

300 mature, successful artists (>$100k/yr income)

5,000 part time artists (need to supplement their income)"

http://www.amazon.com/The-Million-Stuffed-Shark-Contemporary...

[1] "If a great apartment costs $30 million, than a Rothko [big deal famous contemporary artist] that hangs in the featured spot in the living room can also be worth $30 million - as much as the value of the apartment. But no one could envision a $72.8 million apartment to use for comparison..."


Original thread

If you are more curious about the contemporary art world market and why $29M is not that expensive[1], I recommend "The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art".

In general, brand (in this case Christie's and Sotheby's) ranks supreme above all else. Once you are branded, you can pretty much sell anything as expensive art.

Also, an interesting factoid - when we hear of Far East/Middle East buyers bidding tens of millions (or more) for a painting, we naturally tend to think - who buys that without seeing it - but as the book points out - the painting has most likely gone to see the buyer already (e.g. Dubai/Hong Kong pre-auction private tour).

Excerpts from the book:

"Money itself has little meaning in the upper echelons of the art world -- everyone has it. What impresses is ownership of a rare and treasured work such as Jasper Johns' 1958 White Flag. The person who owns it (currently Michael Ovitz in Los Angeles) is above the art crowd, untouchable. What the rich seem to want to acquire is what economists call positional good; things that prove to the rest of the world that they really are rich."

Jasper Johns' White Flag

http://michaelovitz.blogspot.com/2011/04/weve-featured-this-...

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1998.329

Estimates on the artist economy:

"40k artists resident in London (about same number in NYC)

For London and NYC each:

75 superstar artists (>$1M/yr income)

300 mature, successful artists (>$100k/yr income)

5,000 part time artists (need to supplement their income)"

http://www.amazon.com/The-Million-Stuffed-Shark-Contemporary...

[1] "If a great apartment costs $30 million, than a Rothko [big deal famous contemporary artist] that hangs in the featured spot in the living room can also be worth $30 million - as much as the value of the apartment. But no one could envision a $72.8 million apartment to use for comparison..."


Original thread

I recently enjoyed "The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art". As the title promises, it's a great look into the economics of contemporary art - what forces determine the ridiculous prices you hear about.

http://www.amazon.com/Million-Stuffed-Shark-Economics-Contem...


Original thread