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The Art of the Steal

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  524 ratings  ·  46 reviews
The Art of the Steal tells the story of several larger-than-life figures - the billionaire tycoon Alfred Taubman; the most powerful woman in the art world, Dede Brooks; and the wily British executive Christopher Davidge - who conspired to cheat their clients out of millions of dollars. It offers an unprecedented look inside this secretive, glamorous, gold-plated industry, ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published May 3rd 2005 by Berkley (first published 2004)
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3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  524 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Lance Charnes
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: readers who don't require a lot of crime in their true-crime stories
Sotheby's and Christie's are the world's only two significant international auction houses. If you read about a painting or sculpture being auctioned off for the equivalent of the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa, it's almost 100% certain to have happened in one of their sales rooms. They've been rivals for most of their 200-plus-year histories, competing for the custom of the lavish estates and megarich collectors who need to unload (or stock up on) fine or decorative art ranging from Mesopotamian ant ...more
Aug 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a detailed examination of the price-fixing scandal that rocked the art world a few years back. I read it long enough ago that the details are gone, but I remember enjoying both the inside look into an art world I knew nothing about and a fascination with the corporate crime story it tells.
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This read like fiction, but you couldn't make this scandal up if you tried. Bought this mostly for book research for my own novel, but you don't need an advanced interest in auction houses to enjoy it.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Who knew a book about a few probably extra legal meetings between two high powered auction house employees and the resulting aftermath could be so thrilling? Christopher Mason's account of the Sotheby's-Christie's auction house scandal of the late 90s/early 00s is labeled as the definitive account of the events and rightly so: he manages to fit in quotes and interviews with just about everyone involved and everyone important in the industry at the time to give you the full picture. Some of the b ...more
Geoff Burdick
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
As opposed to "Priceless," which I did not like at all (and was a rare DNF), "The Art of the Steal" is a wonderfully written page-turner detailing the history, logistics and results of illegal price-fixing by the two largest auction houses in the world.
Mason does a wonderful job of moving back and forth between the numerous people involved in the story, which could be tricky. It's a bit complicated, and various people were involved at different levels from two competing companies. That said, it'
Oct 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Read the first half of book quite intently, then, got distracted.

LOTS of details, and did find interesting, but book borrowed on ILL and wanted to get it back soon, so skimmed last one quarter of book.
Jun 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Evolution of the scandal of complicity in rate setting between Sotheby's and Christie's as the century turned
Jul 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Subtitled “Inside the Sotheby’s-Christie’s Auction House Scandal”, Mason’s book introduced me an industry I knew very little about and a scandal I had never heard of. Introducing readers to multimillionaire tycoon Alfred Taubman, Dede Brooks ( the CEO of Sotheby’s and the first woman to ever hold the position) and Christopher Davidge (the British CEO of Christie’s) as well as a whole host of other characters, Mason lays out how the world’s most famous auction houses cheated their clients out of ...more
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
- There are only two big-name world-famous auction houses, Sotheby's and Christie's. This is the interesting story of their histories and how they grew from 'clubby, aristocratic businesses into slick international corporations'. "The Art Of The Steal is the only narrative to tell the whole truth about one of the most fascinating big-business trials of the new century: the proceedings that grew out of the price-fixing scandal that shocked the auction world and put one of the richest men in Ameri ...more
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Absolutely loved this book. I was captivated by the whole story, from start to finish. While I don't know anything about the art world, it was interesting to get a feel for how it works. It seemed apparent the price-fixing was not at all necessary, given the close competition between Sotheby's and Christie's; a point made throughout the story. As with most industries, when one company moves to be more aggressive or to raise its prices, generally the closest competitor(s) will follow suit. I woul ...more
Jan 28, 2008 rated it liked it
I'll be the first to admit that I read very few non-fiction books... I'm definitely more of a fiction person. But this book was very hard to put down - I really enjoyed the story and thought the writing flowed and drew the reader in. I found the story and the ending very interesting. Though I wasn't always a fan of Mason's somewhat gossipy style, I found the insight into the two auction houses and into the scandal fascinating. I was also surprised to discover how the US judicial system worked - ...more
Elaine Copeland
Jun 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book reads like a Wall Street ‘who's who', and a real ‘ who-dun nit', centering around both private collections, and of public museum holdings, belonging to its kind donors. Numerous real-life players from the art world are mentioned here, showing us the challenges found when two large auction houses compete for attention by product marketing it's collections, and attempt at giving fair service to keep maintain value on behalf of numerous family client estates and antiquities. This story dr ...more
Jun 10, 2012 rated it liked it
A real life "who dun what and when" page turner. I wasn't convinced that I would enjoy a book about corporation fraud but this telling of the Christie's/Sotherby's tale was really interesting. The plot twists and turns but the real hook is the hubris of the CEOs involved. To do such a stupid thing, then lie about it, with knowledge of the way the US justice system works. They are paid for their intelligence. Really? Some of the right people were punished; some seeming shouldn't have been and wer ...more
Sep 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, non-fiction
To be fair, I mostly read this for research for my own book so as a result, I'm going to be predisposed to find some parts useful and others not very. This is the story of the price fixing scandal between Sotheby's and Christie's. As you might imagine, bombastic and memorable individuals abound. Corporate fraud always makes for an interesting tale, and corporate fraud in such a rarefied and close-walled industry is doubly so. It did seem way too long for this type of book and, honestly, the auth ...more
Aug 27, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: an insomniac.
All right, I'll admit it, I quit this book about 100 pages in. I enjoyed it, it was fascinatingly detailed, but not exactly the page-turning type of details. More like the intricasies of conversations and monetary figures and such.

I'm sure the story is interesting, and the general theme seemed quite engaging, but it was a little to technical for me, and I'm involved in the art business. I can't imagine what it would be like for someone who had little interest in the art field!
Mar 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
I took a break from fiction to read this after reading "An Object of Beauty" by Steve Martin. This took some time to get through, but was still fascinating in the way "The Informant" was fascinating. I really enjoyed it, even though I would have liked to see pictures of some of the art pieces which were mentioned. That might have upped the entertainment value.
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
there are very few good books about these two auction house. i read it more for the inside info provided than interest in "the scandal"
The beginning was bogged down a bit by having to give a full biography of the 4 central owners and Ceo's involved, bit after that the pacing and storytelling were very engaging. I wish the author had more books.
May 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in art, business, and law
Shelves: non-fiction
This book chronicles the white-collar crime story of the price-fixing scandal at Sotheby's and Christie's. Well-researched and well-written...great character studies of the major key players. I was slightly overwhelmed by the sophisticated vocabulary and my need to google every single art work mentioned in the book.
Mar 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
I read this book because it was about my work. It was interesting and gave some information about the "scandal" that I didn't know. But it was clear the author was trying to sensationalize the subject and it affected the writing.
Jan 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
This very newsworthy scandal was somewhat buried with all the goings on in September 2001. "The Art of the Steal" timelined events nicely; gave background information on people, places, and events referenced in it. Well-researched and interesting facts noted. I would recommend.
Jul 26, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, read-2004
i worked for christie's during the time this plot was uncovered and through the trials of davidge and taubman. thus, i was naturally interested in the book, but was disappointed. perhaps that is as it should be.
Jan 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
So not my normal genre...but, auctioning picasso's, etc. does fit my taste! It was a really great book...had lots of insite to the world of Sotheby's & Chrisite's. I actually found this to be a page turner...even though we all really knew what had happened! (Kinda "Titanic" ish!)
Stephanie Newton
Mar 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
If you like journalistic coverage of scandals in the art world, you won't want to miss this book. It's a pretty quick read, and give insight into the history of corruption that reshaped today's auction practices
Anne Burke
Jul 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Very interesting insight into the price fixing scandal between Christie's and Sotheby's. The last few chapters of this book were bogged down with minute detail that did not appeal to me however. I heard the movie was fantastic!
Feb 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Very informative while also very readable. The best thing about this book is it gives good insight on how and why the auction houses transformed themselves in the 1980's to what they have become today. Plus lots of details on how the events unfolded over the course of almost ten years.
Sep 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in the art world
Shelves: art
A very well told story about the Christies-Sotheby's price fixing scandal. The sheer greed and hubris of the main players in the scheme is astounding, yet after other relatively recent scandals like Enron and Andersen, painfully not surprising.
Jun 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Very interesting character study of people in leadership (?) positions and how the greed, drive and different cultures mesh to create chaos. I learned that the most guilty are not always those who suffer most and often the adgendas of the legal profession have the greatest affect.
Adrian Greenwood
As an antiques dealer myself it was very heartening to read someone lifting the lid on the rottenness of the London auction business. Unfortunately no one seemed to take much notice and Sothebys and Christies carry on much as before.
A fun chatty history. Enjoyable read.
Mar 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-non-fiction
Easy to read retelling of the Southeby's & Christie's auction houses price fixing scandal. Disclaimer: I have a weakness for stories of corporate fraud.
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