The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art – A Review

stuffedIn contemporary art, there are many questions to be raised as to why works sell and more strangely, how much they sell for. With each new movement, there are a series of new questions brought to the table – is this art? What will people pay to own it? Is there a place for it?

The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art takes an in depth approach to such questions that are raised daily within the art world. Drawing on psychology and the economics of the contemporary art world, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark brings to light the flat out insane prices and lengths that people will go to to own the next “big deal.”

Pollock

When Jackson Pollock, for example, was emerging as the face of abstract expressionism, he was doing so at a time where form and training defined art. Had it not been for the help of Peggy Guggenheim and his wife, Lee Krasner, Pollock’s work would have continued to be overlooked. So, why, under what circumstance does his work now sell for a cool $140 million? Answer – A major contemporary art world figure head deemed it worthy. It is just one side of the psychology of the art world and how it feeds the art market’s economic makeup.

Damien Hirst

Following the same sort of mindset, Hirst paid to have the shark caught and then had the two ton carcus taxidermied and mounted, titled it The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living and set a $12 million dollar price tag. It didn’t sell, largely in part because of the weight of the piece, but also because unlike Pollock, no art world big-wig proclaimed it as the next big movement. It was eventually purchased by a wealthy investor after much controversy.

A Question Raised

By covering these types of controversial pieces and their buyers, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art makes the reader focus on questions that have plagued the art world, society and the individual ever since the Venus of Willendorf and those questions often have only personal answers. After all, what is art? What defines a creation as a work of art? Who needs to say it is art before it can seriously be considered as such?

The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art by Don Thompson is available for purchase through Palgrave Macmillan with ISBN 0230610226.