Different Perspectives on the Art World

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Looking for some late-summer reading but don’t know what to pick? We have the answer: three novels, in which artists, studio assistants and art madness are characterized.

The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq

The Guardian called this novel "a wonderfully strange and subversive enterprise and a semi-satirical examination of the art world". In The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq the focus lies on the artistic career of fictional artist Jed Martin. Who seems to have the tendency to create very commercially and critically successful work and then abandons them. His rise to fame and fortune sheds an interesting light on the way prices are set and artists are made. Michel Houellebecq has also cleverly and brutally inserted himself in this novel and you will be able to spot the names of several other writers and artists as well.

The American Painter Emma Dial by Samantha Peale

The New York Times sees this novel as part of a new genre, namely the assist-and-tell novel, in which entry-level employees tell tales about their bosses. A well-known example would be The Devil Wears Prada. But the protagonist in Samantha Peale’s novel Emma Dial is not a secretary but a studio assistant. Emma struggles with her current position, as she used to dream to become a painter in her own right instead of painting someone else’s paintings. Samantha Peale should know what she is talking about, as she worked as a studio assistant to the sculptor Jeff Koons for four years. If your book bag is full and there is no place for Emma Dial this summer, don’t worry; the novel is currently being developed into a movie.

Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe

In essence Back to Blood is a novel about the ongoing immigration of Cubans to the United States. But, as it is set in Miami, Tom Wolfe goes at length into the art frenzy of Art Basel Miami Beach as well. Tom Wolfe is no stranger to mocking the art world, in his book-length essay The Painted Word he mercilessly picks it apart. Back to Blood is filled with billionaire art collectors mobbing each other at the fair, paintings, intended for a new museum, which are rumored to be fakes and an art advisor scolding someone for calling Cy Twombly cutting-edge. Worth a read, just for spotting the thinly veiled caricatures of several art world icons. Any ideas who "Harry Goshen," a tall dealer with silver hair and "eerie pale-grey eyes" might be?

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