See below for a few books that have come out on collecting and the art market that we think you might find interesting:


Revolutionary  Paris and the Market for Netherlandish Art by Darius A. Spieth, Brill, Leiden, 2108.

The growth of interest in Dutch and Flemish painting in eighteenth-century Paris has been a subject of considerable interest and research by recent scholars such as de Marchi and van Miegroet, Michel, Thomas and Barbara Gaehtgens, to mention only a few. What is of exceptional interest in this study by Darius Spieth is the detailed understanding of the workings of the art market in Paris from the Ancien Regime up to the 1830s.  The book concentrates on the career of Jean Pierre Lebrun, and as such is rich in detailed accounts of individual sales and purchases during this period in the market as well as Lebrun’s negotiations and government acquisitions under the Revolution. Another fascinating discussion is on the taste for Netherlandish painting as evidenced by the Orleans collection.  Usually rather a neglected aspect of the Orleans collection, the author analyses in some detail their subject matter, arguing that the concentration on libertine subjects reflects the Regent’s particular taste. The points made are interesting, but perhaps underplays the role that mythological subjects had played in secular collections of Italian as well as Flemish paintings from the seventeenth century. It is perhaps rather curious to deal with this collection, formed primarily in the early eighteenth century after, rather than before analysing the Revolutionary sales. It underlies the difficulties in discussing the taste rather than the market for these paintings. Taste is taken up in the last chapter, entitled ‘ a History and Taste and Money across Three Centuries, which Spieth uses to conclude his book, emphasizing that after the Revolution, Netherlandish art was made acceptable and old value judgements were revised. As the discussion throughout the book shows, however, the taste and market for Dutch and Flemish paintings was complex; Italianate Dutch paintings,  as with works by Rubens, certainly were one aspect of the eighteenth-century market, reflecting perhaps the replacement of difficult to find Italian paintings, with easier and more accessible Dutch paintings. However, the eighteenth century collectors also acquired genre paintings by Ostade, Steen and Teniers of a far more earthy type: so was it the Revolution that gave these their value?

In conclusion, this is an important addition to the literature on the art market in Paris, covering a new area of the subject and linking the taste for Dutch and Flemish paintings of the eighteenth century to that of the later nineteenth.


A Rothschild Renaissance: A New Look at the Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum, ed. Pippa Shirley and Dora Thornton, The British Museum, London, 2017

In 2015 a conference was held at the British Museum to celebrate the re-installment of the Waddesdon Bequest. This has now appeared as a series of essays which reflect the range of the collection and its history from a private collection at Waddesdon Manor to its gift by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild to the museum. As such it makes fascinating reading, providing in depth analysis of some of the key works of art in the collection and placing their acquisition in the context of the taste of the time. Baron Ferdinand’s collection in the smoking room at Waddesdon was exceptional in English collecting taste, concentrating on primarily sixteenth-century works of art, including small sculptures and bronzes, silver goblets, Venetian glass, Italian maiolica, Limoges enamels, jewels and miniatures. The introduction by Dora Thornton and the essay on the collection at Waddesdon by Pippa Shirley bring together the illustrations of the collection in 1897 from The Red Book, a copy of which has also been acquired by the British Museum, with a comprehensive account of the original collection. Written by Baron Ferdinand it gives a first-hand account of the collection and provides the most important information about the formation of the collection.  The next group of essays covers the contest of the collection, including its transfer and acquisition by the British Museum, providing an insight into collecting habits at the end of the 19th century in Britain as well as Ferdinand’s own concerns as he created a collection worthy of donating to a museum. These are followed by a number of essays examining particular objects in detail:  the Palmer Cup, gilded and enameled glass vessels, the collection of Limoges enamels and two Nautilus and Bacchus cups As well as examining the art historical value and importance of these objects, the selection offers the opportunity to see the criteria by which Ferdinand acquired these works. Quality of design and workmanship, provenance and the historical importance were all of value to him, and for the most part he has been proven correct in his assessments. However, as the final essays point out, the interest and high prices being paid for Renaissance works of art at the time also resulted in dealers such as Frédéric Spitzer or forgers such as Salomon Weiniger entering the market and creating their copies or amalgamations of original works.

This book thus covers the many fascinating and intertwined histories of one of the most important of British collections, which we are still able to study as a single collection in its new display.


The Shift:Art and the Rise of Power of Contemporary Collectors by Marta Gnyp, Art and Theory Publishing, Stockholm. 2018.

This discussion of the art market and the role of the collector today provides an excellent overview of the different aspects of the contemporary art market. Based on Gnyp’s PhD thesis and combined with her professional experience as a consultant in Berlin, this book  connects the collector with his world: the art fairs, auctions, art advisors and dealers. It also considers the sometimes vexed and hotly debated topic of the growing importance of financial investment in the art market. In this as in other areas, although information is taken directly from the players, through interviews and case studies, it is difficult to go below the surface. It is difficult to break certain myths, for example that the collector buys for love and with his/her heart, that he/she doesn’t sell except for very good reasons. Gnyp tries and some of her interviews honestly assess the market- one collector describes the art fair as not selling art but selling a commodity or an artist describes the dilemma when his collectors sell his works, in spite of promises to keep them forever, because they have become too valuable. The study of the Columbian artist, Oscar Murillo and his rapid rise to international stardom is interesting, particularly when Gnyp discusses the comments by collectors on his work. The book is an excellent coverage of the main aspects of the contemporary art market; the introduction is a model summary of what someone entering the study of the art market should consider. As the book proceeds, it gives a detached and measured account of the art market today and the increasingly important role the collector is playing in determining the success of an artist.


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