When art and money meet

5/5 - (10 votes)

If one were searching for a powerful curse to place upon their enemies, being profiled by Patrick Radden Keefe might be an ideal option. Radden Keefe, a staff writer for The New Yorker and author, has a knack for writing with devastating precision about prominent figures such as the Sacklers, who profited from the opioid epidemic, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the notorious drug-cartel leader known as “El Chapo,” and Gerry Adams, the Irish Republican activist turned politician.

In comparison to his previous subjects, Larry Gagosian, the global art-market king, is portrayed more leniently in Radden Keefe’s latest profile. While others tend to describe Gagosian using fierce animal analogies like a tiger, a shark, or a snake, Radden Keefe vividly depicts him as a man who transformed fine art into an asset class. He reduced the world’s most remarkable artworks into mere financial assets to be stored in Swiss vaults, rather than appreciated and enjoyed. However, Gagosian is also presented as someone who genuinely cares about art and has played an integral role in shaping and supporting it throughout the past fifty years.

Reflecting upon this profile, I was reminded of an unforgettable exhibition called “The Steins Collect,” which I had the pleasure of visiting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The exhibition showcased extraordinary works by artists such as Matisse and Picasso, but what made it truly fascinating was the connection it established between these artists and Gertrude Stein and her siblings. Their role as collectors with both financial means and an interest in groundbreaking works made them influential figures in nascent art movements like Cubism. Although the exhibition has since ended, the themes it explored can still be discovered in a hard-bound book.

As a lover of artist biographies, one might have expected the Gagosian profile to inspire me to delve into more of these books. However, it brought to mind another book I greatly enjoy, “Liar’s Poker” by Michael Lewis, which delves into the world of Wall Street in the 1980s. I’ve returned to this book multiple times throughout the years. It is intriguing to contemplate what Lewis, who initially studied art history at Princeton before embarking on a career in finance and journalism, would make of Gagosian and his influence on the art market.

Next week, I will be going on vacation, which means that The Interpreter will be on hiatus. Despite having two young children, I always manage to find time for novels during my vacations. I am particularly excited to finally read “The Guest” by Emma Cline, a book that has been on my reading list for a while.

Novels have a way of emotionally engaging me, and there is a risk that the book’s dark portrayal of ultrawealthy beach enclaves in the Hamptons might cast a shadow on my trip to a relatively modest coastal suburb in Spain. However, I hope that it will have the opposite effect, reminding me of the importance of appreciating the simpler pleasures in life as I gaze at the distant ocean from my rented holiday apartment—freedom from the constraints of wealth and luxury.

I wish you all a wonderful end to the summer season. I will be back soon to continue our conversations.

Reader responses:
Here’s another novel that I plan to bring on vacation. Jill Switzer, a reader from Pasadena, CA, recommends the movie “The Wife” and the novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer, on which it is based. Switzer highlights the recurring theme of a woman’s artistic and creative merit being overshadowed by her husband or partner, a concept powerfully portrayed by Glenn Close in the film adaptation.

What are you reading?
Thank you to everyone who reached out to share their current readings. Keep the recommendations coming! I am eager to hear about the books, movies, or even music that you recommend to other Interpreter readers.

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