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Nicholas Penny

  • The Auctioneer: A Memoir of Great Art, Legendary Collectors and Record-Breaking Auctions by Simon de Pury and William Stadiem
    Allen and Unwin, 312 pp, £9.99, April 2017, ISBN 978 1 76011 350 6
  • Rogues’ Gallery: A History of Art and Its Dealers by Philip Hook
    Profile, 282 pp, £20.00, January 2017, ISBN 978 1 78125 570 4
  • Donald Judd: Writings edited by Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray
    David Zwirner, 1054 pp, £28.00, November 2016, ISBN 978 1 941701 35 5

Simon de Pury, assisted by ‘a regular contributor to Vanity Fair’, has written a book about his ascent to the top of the art world: the auctions he conducted, the deals he struck, the parties he attended. It resembles a board game, with smaller parts assigned to the ‘hedge fund overlord’, the ‘polo-playing playboy millionaire’, the ‘James Bond of the Russian oligarchy’, the ‘French luxury goods tycoon’ (also appearing as the ‘French luxury titan’), the ‘serial dater of supermodels’, and the ‘leveraged-buyout king’. The book is illustrated with photographs of de Pury’s friends, such as Tita Thyssen-Bornemisza (wearing a ‘100+ carat diamond’), Al Taubman and Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis. De Pury was private curator to Baron ‘Heini’ – Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza – then chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, then established Phillips de Pury, which he hoped would ‘turn the auction house duoply that was Sotheby’s and Christie’s into a triumvirate that included myself’. ‘Courting Medicis is now what I do,’ he writes, ‘and every week seems to bring a trip to Qatar, Shanghai, or some other Neverland where fantastic people indulge their fantasies by collecting art. I’m there to help.’

The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.

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[*] Curationism was reviewed by Hal Foster in the LRB of 4 June 2015.