Loot: The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World - Sharon Waxman

We don’t have to tell Politics and Prose customers that politics touches everything, but I previously knew little about the culture wars raging between museums and various nations. Now we have several books on this issue. Loot (Times Books, $30), by Sharon Waxman, is an entertaining account of tensions between the old imperial nations and the countries that were once “looted” for their treasures. Meet Zahi Hawass, the flamboyant secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, who’s at war with the Louvre to recover treasures Napoleon carried home with him more than two centuries ago. It’s a new headache for Western museum directors, like Alain Pasquier, chief conservator of Greco-Roman antiquities at the Louvre. But it’s not just Europe under pressure; Turkey is trying to repatriate tombs and precious objects sold to the Met relatively recently.

Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World By Sharon Waxman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780805090888
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
(This book cannot be returned.)
Published: Times Books - September 1st, 2009

Old Masters, New World: America's Raid on Europe's Great Pictures - Cynthia Saltzman

Is there a difference between grabbing “the loot” as part of an imperial expedition and buying it in great quantities as the Americans did? The subtitle of Cynthia Saltzman’s Old Masters, New World (Viking, $27.95) is America’s Raid on Europe’s Great Pictures. Saltzman describes how the nouveau riche Americans (and they were very rich, many from extractive industries in the U.S.) sought out paintings in England, France, and Italy to add to their collections. “The legacy of America’s Gilded Age buying binge stretches across the country…but the beauty of the museum galleries reveals little of the rough and tumble involved in the …pursuit of pictures.” Henry Clay Frick, of course, Mrs. Gardner of Boston, the Havemeyers, whose collection adorns the Metropolitan, and J. Pierpont Morgan, with even more money, were bidding up the prices of the old masters and carting them off to the New World. This sparkling book is a must for all American museum-lovers.

Old Masters, New World: America's Raid on Europe's Great Pictures By Cynthia Saltzman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143115311
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Penguin Books - July 28th, 2009

Seven Days in the Art World - Sarah Thornton

Sarah Thornton, a contributor to The New Yorker, spent Seven Days In The Art World (W.W. Norton, $24.95), attending an auction at Christie’s, touring an art fair in Basel, and observing the Artforum International Manhattan offices, among other things. On her tour she discovers that all the players in today’s art world are afflicted with status anxiety, but they’re also heavily laden with cash.  In 2007 Christie’s sold 793 works of art for over $1 million each. More people than ever are buying contemporary art, the future value of which is highly in doubt. One gallerist reflects that, “The newness of now, which is quite obsessive, is actually a reflection of the consumerism that you see in the whole culture.”  Another suggests that “the boundary between art and entertainment is slowly vanishing.  In backstage politicking dealers anxiously wait for not the best price, but the most prestigious buyer.”

Seven Days in the Art World By Sarah Thornton Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393337129
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - November 2nd, 2009