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Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  548 ratings  ·  67 reviews
A behind-the-scenes look at the egomaniacs, geniuses, and canny promoters who shaped the world of modern art and created the largest unregulated financial market in the world.
Before Damien Hirst stuffed a shark, before Basquiat picked up a spray can, before Andy Warhol started The Factory, a pile of unwanted Jackson Pollocks changed everything. From them emerged the fi
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published May 21st 2019 by PublicAffairs
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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  548 ratings  ·  67 reviews

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Start your review of Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: four-stars-books
4 " gossipy, exhaustive,incredulous" stars !!

The 2019 Jeez Louise Award

Addendum: March 30, 2020- the BF and I watched a fabulous doc that would be a really good companion to this book. The title is Blurred Lines and here is a preview

Thank you to Netgalley, the author and Perseus Books for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book was released on 21 May, 2019 and is currently available

Wherever I travel, I go to galleries and museums
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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I am slightly ashamed to admit that for the longest time, I claimed not to like modern art because all I knew about modern art came from representations by its critics and I was thinking that all of it was just blank canvases splashed with paint, or clear plastic glasses filled with dish detergent and a single floating golf ball, with titles like Existentialism #2 or Cry, Aphrodite. Of course, I realize now that that's a bit like saying
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A much more compelling read than I had expected. If you ever cracked open an art book featuring a painter from the 1950s and up – Rothko, Basquiat, Doig, Murakami, anyone whose work ever transited by New York, really – or a movement to which they are associated, chances are an art dealer was mentioned at some point. Perhaps Leo Castelli for one, but also a slew of others, if only in passing. Larry Gagosian for sure, if the art you read about was recent, or Gavin Brown, maybe.

In Boom: Mad Money,
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Too long and too much detail about the boring minutiae of the business dealings and ups and downs of the big-shot New York art dealers of the post war period. The earlier sections were interesting but too much time on petty gossip - not even good gossip - about mega-dealer Larry Gagosian. I was hoping for a more jaundiced eye, such as that of Don Thompson's $12 Million Dollar Stuffed Shark. A google reminded me who author Shnayerson is: a Vanity Fair writer, a magazine which has some excellent w ...more
Melissa Marie
Mar 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This is an illustrious book (pun intended) highlighting all of the major players of the contemporary art world. If you have an interest in the art world but are a beginner, this could be an overwhelming but at the same time, provides all of the history for you to get up-to-speed. Schnayerson shares the most exciting stories and lives of the most influential dealers, critics, and collectors. This is not to forget the artists who were the subject of this art period such as de Kooning, Rauschenberg ...more
Elliot Ackerman
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Boom is not only a modern history of the art world, filled with rich details, revealing anecdotes, as compelling told by Shnayerson, but it's also an examination of mass culture and mass consciousness. While reading this book I couldn't help but feel as though the rarefied art world Shnayerson turned his eye to became a meta-narrative for the hype-culture our society has mutated into. ...more
This book approaches art history a different way, through an emphasis on the power brokering of powerful dealers like Castelli and Gagosian. These brokers were important in two ways: they found, nurtured, or poached promising artists, thereby influencing the trends of contemporary art through their choices of artists and art schools to provide crucial gallery space, media space, or stipend; and they served as mediators between artist and wealthy collectors that ultimately led to the trend of ext ...more
Victoria Castillo
Oct 23, 2021 rated it liked it
informative but sorta boring
Tejas Sathian
Overview of the contemporary art market, through the lens of the dealers who helped to build the market that we know now. I was a bit disappointed that the book delivered less of the understanding of the business of the art world and structure of the art market, and ended up being mostly a collection of name drops and anecdotes of dealers and artists - not the high level overview and history of the market that I was hoping for. But its portrayal of Gagosian (its central figure) was full of inter ...more
Richie T.
Chronology of art dealings in New York from the 1970s to the present, focusing on the rise of the four current mega-dealers. As others have mentioned, the account is exhaustive to a fault, with only passing reference to the art movements and artworks, and virtually no comment or evaluation on the author's part, so this reads more like the society pages than art history. Not for anyone unfamiliar with contemporary art (unless you don't mind constantly looking up particular artists or art pieces a ...more
Mateo Uribe Castro
Nov 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
A book about the American “art market” that also touches on important social issues: gentrification and urban development, inequality, and intellectual property rights. Have google and the notes app handy if you are reading it.
This book is a bit like learning algebra. You can’t skim over one chapter and expect to keep up with the remaining information that inevitably faces you.

I wanted to finish this book, I swear. However, I skimmed a bit in the first chapter and I never really got caught up. Yes, I could have gone back and reread everything again, but my heart was not in it.

I have a considerable love for fine artists and fine art in general. With that said, I struggled to connect to the artists, and gallery owners
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
I can't really recommend this to anyone. It is about the business of art, but instead of writing about the art or the personalities, Shnayerson seems most dedicated to detailing real-estate transactions (galleries opening in new neighborhoods, etc.). Most of the reporting seems to be second-hand, based on news stories instead of on direct interviews, so the characters stay very flat. There is little narrative.

For the general reader interested in the economics of art, I would recommend instead "
Kingsley Oteng
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
Curious ! I enjoyed its intensity, discussion around how art has evolved and its current baggage/significance. This was an easy read all-in, reminding me somewhat of books following the financial crises, say “The Big Short”. The cover work is great, a nod to Dan Flavin presumably. Great historical back-drop to the modern and contemporary art movements mainly from an artists perspective, particularly as a pictorial trope of 1) London, 2) New York and 3) Los Angeles.
Patrick Todd
I couldn't finish this book. The level of meaningless detail became overwhelming, so I decided to pull the plug about half-way through. I did learn something though and have a better appreciation of the art market, particularly the dealers that are such a heavy influence. ...more
Maya Man
I heard about this book after going to a talk at Google between the author and Marc Glimcher of Pace Gallery. Since getting into reading more about art history, I’ve been loving learning about artists but feeling like I was missing out on the whole art market component. Like you hear about artwork selling for these crazy prices and go to museums and see work by the hottest contemporary artists but how did all of this play out? The process has always seemed so opaque to me, but reading this helpe ...more
Aug 14, 2020 rated it liked it
A non-fiction survey of 20th century contemporary artists and their dealers. It's an epic, sweeping recent history of all the movers and shakers that have helped make contemporary art popular, prominent, and most of all profitable.

It's a funny thing to consider the intersection of art and business, because it feels so wrong, doesn't it? Business and art are 2 opposite concepts. Artists are mercurial, business is logic and numbers. But it's so interesting to read and think about how to put a pric
Lorelei Sowa
Sep 25, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an artist.. anxiety pulsed through me. The market of art has never had much to do with actual art making and in fact.. sucks the joy out of creating.. yet.. i cannot deny the actual ness Edith for it. It is not enough to have something to say and share.. but one also needs a vehicle by which to disseminate it. It is not what you know.. but who you know has never been more poignantly highlighted than in the book Boom! It gives a great history of the rise and fall of dealers, and gallery owners ...more
Mar 21, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2021
I really enjoy modern art. Canvasses painted one single solid color, or a painting of a single stripe. I don't know why, but I enjoy it. It makes me feel something, so why try to analyze it? But I realize as a member of the 99% that my art enjoyment will take place in museums. That's OK with me.

This book is an interesting, albeit exhaustive, look at the inner world of contemporary art. Dealers, buyers, artists, the whole nine yards. There are definitely a lot of names to keep up with, and a lot
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-history, museums
What a phenomenal book; BOOM: Mad Money, Mega Dealers and the Rise of Contemporary Art gives the reader a behind-the-scenes scoop on the art market—the buying and selling of art, the artists, the dealers and collectors. I say ‘collectors’ but what’s really going on is that there are a category of collectors with significant net worth who use art as financial vehicles—as a place to park their money, to invest, and/or to speculate. Art has become a commodity. Author Shnayerson does a marvelous job ...more
Christina Dongowski
This would have been a great book about the history of the Globalization & Financialisation of the art market, if the author had been a bit more interested in the structural side of the wheelings and dealings of the very big personalities he describes in lovingly details. But, in fairness, this was never the goal of the book. So if you‘re starting to be interested in the mechanisms that transform painted cloth or crumpled paper into highly valuable products, Boom is a really good starting point. ...more
This is a good overview of the last 60-odd years of the contemporary art market, from its inception in postwar America. It is very readable, organized chronologically, and strictures around the major “players” (the mega-dealers). But what the book crucially lacks is a macroscopic lens: a larger perspective allowing it to make sense of the tidal shifts in the market. The perspective chosen by the author is entirely anecdotal, and most of it could be gleaned from a careful reading of the art press ...more
Oct 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was interesting, but missing something important that would have made it much more so for me. It’s a detailed story of the post-war boom in modern art and its later manifestations, focusing on the most important dealers who fostered new artists and the artists themselves. It covers a time span in which the prices for paintings by the best artists rose from under $1,000 to over $100,000,000, and in which artists switched dealers and dealers poached artists from other dealers with little. The ...more
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is not as thorough as "Ninth Street Women" which charted the rise of art in New York City from 1950-1980s through the lives of five artists, but "Boom" is the best book I've found for understanding the art galleries especially in New York from 1947-present. So much has changed from five New York galleries in the 1950s to 1500 galleries there today. Of these, the international Gagosian, Wirth, Zwirner and Pace galleries handle most of the multi-million dollar deals, laundering money wor ...more
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Boom" is a thorough study of the business of contemporary Art. Michael Shnayerson delves inside the rising prices of both the modern and contemporary global art markets. This book almost reads like a novel, but the extensive study of living artists and their works for sale is very real. This isn't a book about modern Art History per se. The global art market and the place of galleries, dealers, and auction houses is very much a large portion of current art chronicles. For anyone who enjoys the ...more
John Spiller
"Boom" examines the evolution of the "art world" into the "art market". Shnayerson gives a comprehensive -- too comprehensive -- account of how the economics of art have dramatically changed from post WWII to the present. By too comprehensive, I mean that in his quest to provide the definitive account of the art market, Shnayerson felt compelled to squeeze in a mention of every major dealer, even if they are only mentioned in passing, which tended to make the narrative overlong and leaden. The m ...more
Krzysztof Mathews
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I will say as a preface that it will help you a great deal if you already have a decent sense of the history of 20th century postwar art, as this book makes reference to a veritable galaxy of artists, critics, dealers, collectors and venues. If you do have that background, or even are in the process of learning more about that scene, this does an excellent job of providing an overview of the almost feudal relationships of the various galleries and art dealers. I was personally very impressed to ...more
Lael Braday
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Follow the money as you read of the origins of art as a market in NYC and around the globe, begetting dealer, galleries, and collectors, and making celebrities of contemporary artists. Shnayerson takes Dear Reader through a timeline of the rise of art as investment, exposing the politics behind the scenes, and carefully rendering the oft tenuous dealer-artist relationships. It’s an interesting read for anyone if you can keep track of the names! I was fortunate to receive a copy from PublicAffair ...more
Katherine Kreuter
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I couldn't finish this, which is disappointing. Made it to page 74 before bailing out. The topic interests me, and I've just read a novel based in New York's contemporary art world (Tuesday Nights in 1980). But this book was just an unrelenting march of facts to me. The overall structure is fine - straight chronological with a chapter for each major art movement. But within these I would have preferred a closer look at a single transaction rather than a recording of what everybody was doing, say ...more
Blaire Paiso
Dec 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Miss museums? This book is great to satiate that need if the pandemic has skirted your artistic excursions for the time being.

Super entertaining read, especially if you’ve ever been to The Whitney, The Broad, MOMA, MOCA, etc. you don’t have to be an art historian to appreciate this book, as it’s a good balance of historical context without going so in-depth that it feels like a high school textbook. Loved the well timed moments of gossip and dog eat dog quips to keep the story intriguing. I can
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