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Inside the Art Market: Cancelled, Withdrawn

The first thing I thought of when I heard that Isabella Blow’s personal effects—including her wardrobe—were due to go under the hammer of Christie’s London was a sonnet written by Oscar Wilde and entitled ‘On the Sale by Auction of Keats’ Love Letters,’ specifically the lines: ‘These are the letters which Endymion/Wrote to one he loved in secret, and apart/And now the brawlers of the auction mart/Bargain and bid for each tear-blotted note.’”

                                                                       —Daphne Guinness, Financial Times, July 3/4, 2010

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Delacroix and Dior

Inside the Art Market: Delacroix and Dior

Walking about the Place des Vosges in the early morning, criss-crossing the park before the dogs and the children arrive and people start spreading blankets on the grass for lunch, one encounters a haven of old-world serenity. The windows facing the park all around in those glorious brick and stone villas are mostly shuttered for the August vacation. But the vaulted arcades below offer an array of cafes, art galleries and boutiques, most of them open for business despite the summer doldrums. One even encounters a museum there, the former home of Victor Hugo comprising a vast suite of rooms featuring walls of porcelain plates and Asian knickknacks along with the novelist’s own artwork and various furniture he designed.  Who knew the author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a weekend painter, an aspiring decorator?

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Inside the Art Market: Lately Fashionable

The fashion photographer, whose importance has only been recognized in the last twenty years, is an extraordinary being.  He is generally a painter who could not paint, a designer who never drew, or an architect who never built. The leading dressmakers of the world are household names, but only those directly concerned with the magazine world have heard of any celebrated fashion photographer.

Cecil Beaton, Photobiography, 1951

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Bella Davidovich

Inside the Art Market: Strings Attached

For most of my youth I knew little about music. I took clarinet lessons in school, then recorder lessons, and finally realized that while I loved music I could neither read it nor play it. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties and living in Brussels for a year that, with time on my hands, I suddenly discovered a serious interest in listening to music. This was satisfied by attending concerts weekly at the Palais des Beaux Arts, a stately hall where the major orchestras of the world appeared often on European tour, and where one could hear the greatest soloists of violin and piano in recital. The tickets were cheap, even for hearing Alfred Brendel, the Guarnari Quartet or the Vienna Symphony conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini.

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Inside the Art Market: Pictures at the Ballet

How many triumphant evenings, what miracles of artistry, what gasps of admiration, what beating hearts and clapping hands, what Arabian nights do these scenes and dresses represent, which are now to be sold to the highest bidder?

                                                                        —Richard Buckle, Sotheby’s Catalogue, July 1968

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The Value of a Letter

Inside the Art Market: The Value of A Letter

Writing to an acquaintance in a letter dated February 17, 1947, Diana Vreeland, the flamboyant fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar, recounted a recent trip to California and all the wondrous sights she had beheld there. In sentences bursting with impressions thrown off like vivid, colorful splats on a canvas, she conjures up scenes of film stars on sound stages, homes of the rich and famous in Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, dress factories in Hollywood and socialites up and down the coast, art collectors with French pictures and, the most amazing of all to her, how in Hollywood everybodystars, agents, producers, directors, waiters, people in shops—has the most wonderful teeth.

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Snowdon

Inside the Art Market: Double Agents

Rummaging through the dim, cavernous room of art titles at a used bookseller in New England on a recent weekend I came across something that leaped out at me, if only for the author’s name on the spine. I pulled the book out and peered at its title on the drab blue dustjacket. Artistic Theory in Italy, 1450-1600, it read: something to quicken the heart of an art history doctoral candidate perhaps but surely no one else. But I bought the book anyway. At home taking a closer look I noticed on the flyleaf, penciled-in by the knowing bookseller just below the price and above a “Blackwell’s Oxford” stamp, this cheeky notation:

Spy!”

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