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Official Site of Michael Shnayerson

Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art

The meteoric rise of the largest unregulated financial market in the world-for contemporary art-is driven by a few passionate, guileful, and very hard-nosed dealers. They can make and break careers and fortunes. 

The contemporary art market is an international juggernaut, throwing off multimillion-dollar deals as wealthy buyers move from fair to fair, auction to auction, party to glittering party. But none of it would happen without the dealers-the tastemakers who back emerging artists and steer them to success, often to see them picked off by a rival. 

Dealers operate within a private world of handshake agreements, negotiating for the highest commissions. Michael Shnayerson, a longtime contributing editor to Vanity Fair, writes the first ever definitive history of their activities. He has spoken to all of today's so-called mega dealers-Larry Gagosian, David Zwirner, Arne and Marc Glimcher, and Iwan Wirth-along with dozens of other dealers-from Irving Blum to Gavin Brown-who worked with the greatest artists of their times: Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, and more. 

This kaleidoscopic history begins in the mid-1940s in genteel poverty with a scattering of galleries in midtown Manhattan, takes us through the ramshackle 1950s studios of Coenties Slip, the hipster locations in SoHo and Chelsea, London's Bond Street, and across the terraces of Art Basel until today. Now, dealers and auctioneers are seeking the first billion-dollar painting. It hasn't happened yet, but they are confident they can push the price there soon.

“In Boom, Michael Shnayerson masterfully traces the blaze-like contemporary art market back to what now seem like unassuming origins. He tells how, somewhere along the way, dealers persuaded the rest of the art world that what they were looking at was not as important as why they were looking at it. And the why, as it turns out, was money.”

 —Graydon Carter, former editor of Vanity Fair and founder of Air Mail newsletter

“How did the art world—the rarefied, decorous realm of a few hundred in the 1960s—become the art market? Michael Shnayerson penetrates the mysterious conclave of taste, style and money in this sparkling, high-octane account. It’s all here and beautifully bound together, from Lucien Freud’s gambling debts to the AIDS epidemic to private museums to the magical question of whether the artist makes the dealer or the dealer the artist.” 

—Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra: A Life and The Witches: Salem, 1692

Michael Shnayerson, The Author

Michael Shnayerson 

became a contributing editor at Vanity Fair in 1986 and has since written more than 75 stories for the magazine. Shnayerson is the author of The Car That Could: The Inside Story of GM's Revolutionary Electric Vehicle (Random House, 1996), which was named one of the best business books of 1996 by BusinessWeek; and he is the co-author, with Mark J. Plotkin, of The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise of Drug-Resistant Bacteria (Little, Brown, 2002). He lives in Sag Harbor, New York.