Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Zeke's Gallery Book Review - The Intrepid Art Collector by Lisa Hunter



I just finished reading The Intrepid Art Collector by my friend and art blogger Lisa Hunter. She gave it to me back in January, and I was able to find enough time to read it when I was racked up with something that might have been dysentery. Now normally, as you might expect, I'm not a big fan of self-help and how-to books, and this one not only is a how-to book, but has the words 'Beginner's Guide...' emblazoned on its cover like a badge of honor.

The only time I'm going to admit that I'm a beginner at anything is once I'm an expert and I'm reminiscing to some whippersnapper about the 'old days.' Maybe that's why it took being racked up in bed and being under the covers before I could crack the spine, unconsciously I didn't even want my sweetie to know.

Ummm, can you say Mistake? Loser? Wrong? With a capital 'M,' a capital 'L,' and a capital 'W?' Now that I have finished the book, I am kicking myself at having been such a scaredy cat. It was a breeze to read (Ms. Hunter is a very good writer) and despite the irrefutable fact that I am a black belt master expert and always score at least 100% (if not more) on all exams in everything having to do with art, I actually learned some things myself. Then on top of it, it made me giggle out loud as well - always a good thing when I am reading.

Like anything I read (or do) I always look for the missing things, or the stuff that fell through the cracks, and The Intrepid Art Collector is no exception. But before I launch into that (and give you the wrong idea that I don't like the book) allow me to point out some of the things where I could find no fault, and where I quite enjoyed myself.

The book itself is organized into two sections (what to buy and how to buy it) and each chapter is subdivided into smaller bits that involve checklists, and Q+A's with a very impressive roster of art specialists, supporting an extremely readable and very solid text on how, along with who, what, when and where. I think this is where I first went wooooo (you know that long low whistle you make when you're impressed?) Ms. Hunter got to talk to a former director of the Whitney museum, a former Vice President at Sothebys and a whack of other people who not only care deeply about art, but also know how to explain why other people should care deeply about it too. Not only was I jealous, but I was very impressed as well.

Now that I've gotten the how great the book is, and you should go out and get a copy right now, out of the way, I can address some of the things that I hope will be in the second (and future) editions of the book: Personally, I would have ditched the chapter on oriental rugs, and replaced it with (or added if the rugs needed to stay) on sculpture and/or video art instead of lumping both of them into the contemporary art chapter.

Then, while I use it as a mantra, I try not to tell people too many times that loving art is the single most important reason to get art. I got the sensation that since each chapter was about a different type of art Ms. Hunter felt she needed to repeat it in each one in case someone only read one chapter.

And finally, I felt that there was a little bit too much of a reliance on auction houses and 'reputable' dealers for my liking, especially since auction houses and 'reputable' dealers have been caught ripping off individuals, and the public, both recently, and in the past. However, it occurred to me while I was taking my shower this morning, that at the beginning, relying on auction houses and 'reputable' dealers is a good thing. In the same way that walking into the shallow end is a good thing when you are learning to swim. Personally I normally dive into the deep end when I start to swim, but I can remember being three years old (or so) and while I probably wished I could've dived into the deep end at that time, I'm pretty happy that I didn't. Once someone has familiarized themselves with art, then they can discover how auction houses and 'reputable' dealers aren't all they are cracked up to be.

Beyond that, there ain't much I can add, other than I am looking forward to the second edition.

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