Journalist Mason calls into question exactly what drives the art market at so breathtakingly profitable a pace.

A damning story of dirty dealing in the art world.

In the early 1980s, the auction house Sotheby’s was in trouble, with a faltering economy and its chairman’s profligacy threatening to bring the venerable institution to its knees. Enter shopping-mall magnate Alfred Taubman, who appreciated the gloss Sotheby’s would add to his resume and the swell parties he would be able to attend. It didn’t take long for Taubman to realize that business could be conducted more profitably if certain niceties were observed—namely, agreeing with fellow auctioneer Christie’s upon buyer’s premiums and commission rates “mutually beneficial to both firms.” There follows, in Mason's fair reporting, a tale of “divvying up big estates on a one-for-me, one-for-you basis,” attempting to ensure that all lots at auction commanded the highest possible price. British law and American law clashed over what exactly constituted collusion, but a Christie’s executive squealed, quailing at the prospect of besmirching his name, let alone jail time. The whole rotten edifice crumbled, as Mason intricately details. Suddenly, what was thought to be the ultimate in fair bidding became a joke, revealing “a deceitful, secretive criminal scheme whose object and purpose was illegal profit.” (Though fabulously rich clients wanting to “deaccession a few major pieces” may not prompt excessive amounts of reader sympathy.) The defendants didn’t even demonstrate a measure of contrition: “Blinded by ambition, you substituted shame for fame,” the judge lectured Sotheby’s chief Diana Brooks, who in his view traded her title of CEO “to be branded a thief and common criminal.” Taubman skipped with minor punishment, and Mason baldly suggests that connections served him both on the way up and on the way down.

Journalist Mason calls into question exactly what drives the art market at so breathtakingly profitable a pace.

Pub Date: May 11, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-15093-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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