Summary of The $12 Million Stuffed Shark

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When it comes to contemporary art, many observers simply scratch their heads and mumble, “You call that art?” Intriguing, disturbing, exhilarating and obscene, contemporary art is hard to understand. In fact, when you consider pieces like the titular $12 million stuffed shark by Damien Hirst, it is often downright baffling. If you’re looking for artistic explanations and interpretations, though, Don Thompson doesn’t offer much help. That’s not his particular domain. Thompson, an economics and marketing professor, zeroes in on the financial inner-workings of the art world (at least, the pre-2009 recession art world). Curious why certain pieces sell for millions, he delved into the peculiar personalities that inhabit this controversial genre. getAbstract applauds his lively exploration of a fascinating topic that few economists would even ponder.

About the Author

Don Thompson teaches marketing and economics in the M.B.A. program at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto.



The Right Brand of Art

Few rules apply in contemporary art. From pieces like Andy Warhol’s Soup Can with Peeling Label to Jeff Koons’ display of a Hoover vacuum cleaner in a Plexiglas case – works that “recontextualize” ordinary objects – contemporary art is typically controversial, subjective, indefinable and immune to old standards as it pushes the boundaries of taste and sensibility.

Branding unquestionably governs the contemporary art market, influencing the monetary value of most pieces and the buying behavior of high-end art consumers. As expected in other fields, branding shapes purchasing. People buy a Mercedes because the brand connotes quality, value and status. The same principle applies to contemporary art. Christie’s and Sotheby’s, the world’s most prestigious auction houses, can command higher prices for the pieces they offer. Branded dealers, such as Jay Jopling in London and Larry Gagosian in New York, carry works that other galleries don’t have. Branded collectors provide immediate credibility to the artwork they buy.

Branding – not talent – is often all that separates an established artist from a new or “emerging” artist. Branding drives...

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