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Top 15 Book and Movie Picks: Art, Antiques & Auctions

Who has time to read anymore? In the fast-paced auction business, we still manage to snatch a few minutes to curl up with a good book or check out an interesting film. Antiques appraisers, auctioneers and everyone else here at Skinner wanted to share our favorite fiction, nonfiction, and movies from the past year with you. Plus, if you’ve got an antiques lover or art history buff in your life, these art, antiques & auction themed books and movies could make some great last-minute holiday gifts.

#1 Bright Star directed by Jane Campion

Movie Pick by Karen Keane, CEO of Skinner, Inc.

How do you compete with the romantic poetry of John Keats? Don’t even try. Bright Star, directed by Jane Campion depicts the love affair between John Keats and “spunky fashionista” Fanny Brawne. Steamy, sure, but the rooms! Museum period rooms tend to be jammed with iconic objects, but Campion adopts a “less is more” approach with spare but luscious rooms. Fanny’s clothes, too, share an authentic simplicity. An accomplished seamstress, she was, nonetheless, an amateur. Campion’s restrained spaces, fabrics, and textures provide a rich support for the romantic dialogue between Keats and Brawne.

#2 The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr

Nonfiction Pick by Melissa Riebe, Discovery Department Specialist & Online Auctions Administrator
The Lost Painting is a non-fiction book that reads like a detective novel.  Written for art lovers, not necessarily art experts, Jonathan Harr guides the reader through the discovery of a lost painting by the Italian master, Caravaggio. And it all starts with one small, seemingly insignificant clue found in a dusty Italian archive…

#3 Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

Object of Beauty by Steve MartinFiction Pick by Jane Prentiss, Director of 20th Century Design
Steve Martin’s personal eye for collecting art was what initially drew me to this book, and I was not disappointed. For anyone without knowledge of the art world, it’s sure to spark curiosity. For the advanced collector, the characters and background may be familiar, but with a twist that could only come from the personal experiences and the creativity of the author.

#4 Exit Through the Gift Shop directed by Banksy

Exit Through the Gift ShopDocumentary Pick by Catherine Riedel, Director of Marketing
This fascinating and mysterious documentary follows the path of an eccentric Frenchman from his lowly beginnings as a street art fan with a video camera to his debut as Mr. Brainwash, who takes the art world by storm. This film turns the art world on its head, making one wonder, what really makes something art? And what makes something valuable or worthy of collecting? This film really illustrates the importance of the following advice: “know what you are buying, know who you are buying it from.”

#5 Art Auction Mystery by Anna Nilsen

Art Auction Myster by Anna NilsenChildren’s Fiction Pick by Kerry Shrives, Vice President
This novel is perfect for 9-12 year-old budding art detectives. On the eve of an important art auction, suspicion is raised about the authenticity of some of the artworks. The readers assist by identifying the forgeries from the group of masterpieces, and the amount paid to each forger for their copies. Includes clues, characters and lots of great paintings.

#6 The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser

The Gardner Heist by Ulrich BoserNonfiction Pick by Carol Tran, Marlborough Receptionist
I really enjoyed this book because it went into great detail about the Gardner Heist, exploring leads they had over the last 20 years. And it was very eye-opening to read about the Boston crime scene!

#7 Thomas Crowne Affair (1999)

The Thomas Crowne AffairMovie Pick by Samantha Heighton, Outgoing Property & Release Controller
This remake of the ’68 version stars the delectable Pierce Brosnan, a wealthy business thrill-seeker who steals art. He meets his match when he falls for a woman who works as a detective for an insurance company. She’s working with the authorities to find the thief. He ends up putting the missing painting (a Renoir) back to win the heart of Rene Russo and to avoid capture. Though, he steals another painting… apparently, he can’t help himself.

#8 Headlong by Michael Frayn

Headlong by Michael FraynFiction Pick by Chris Barber, Specialist of American Furniture & Decorative Arts
Always fascinating and unexpectedly suspenseful, this is the twisting tale of a man who, in the unlikeliest of places, may or may not have rediscovered an art historical masterpiece.

#9 Incognito directed by John Badham

Incognito movieMovie Pick by Jessica Lincoln, Property Distribution Manager
How does one make a forgery of a Rembrandt in the modern era? What lengths would someone go to in order to create a masterpiece with age-appropriate pigments, materials, and techniques employed? How long would it take to pull it all together? This exciting tale of love, deceit, and perseverance takes place in beautiful European cities… and stars beautiful Jason Patric.

#10 The French Blue by Richard Wise

The French Blue by Richard W. WiseHistorical Fiction Pick by Gloria Lieberman, Director of Fine Jewelry
I just finished reading this novel about the famous 17th century gem merchant Jean Baptiste Tavernier and the history of the Hope Diamond, which was called the French Blue for many years. The book was fun and fascinating! You travel with Tavernier to exotic places looking for the ultimate stone… It’s the art of the deal 17th century style.

#11 Art of the Steal directed by Don Argott

Art of the StealDocumentary Pick by Kathryn Gargolinski, Web Marketing Specialist
How could an art collection worth $25 billion (and estimated by some to be priceless) get stolen? Verrry slowly. This fascinating documentary follows the history of the Barnes collection and how it wound up moving to downtown Philadelphia, expressly against the wishes of the original owner. Conspiracy theory or actual heist? You decide.

#12 Provenance: How a Con Man and Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo

ProvenanceNonfiction Pick by Tish King, Director of Auction & Appraisal Services
This fast paced and thrilling account tells of an artist, a con-man and the power of provenance. As the narrative unfolds, dealers, collectors and curators are ensnared in a forger’s deception supported by manufactured provenance.

#13 Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him by Danielle Ganek

Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him by Danielle GanekFiction Pick by Robin Starr, Director of American & European Paintings & Prints
This book walks the balance for capturing the contemporary art market with the easy-going style of a novel. The result is a snapshot of the culture of the New York art scene in the pleasure of fiction. The book begins with the wildly successful auction of a stellar contemporary painting, describing some of the players (and “non-players”) in the room, then moves back in time to tell the story of the painting’s rise from obscurity to stardom. The writing is light and pithy, making it an enjoyable vacation read.

#14 The Madness of King George directed by Nicholas Hytner

The Madness of King GeorgeMovie pick by John Colasacco, Specialist of Fine Jewelry
This comedy/drama delves into the circumstances surrounding George III’s dementia and his restoration to health at the end of the 18th century. Aside from being a great film, I adore the gorgeous period costumes and over-the-top hairstyles of the Georgian royal court. As you can imagine from a member of the Fine Jewelry department, I also think the wonderfully accurate jewelry is to die for! And Helen Mirren stars as Queen Charlotte.  Need I say more?

#15 The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities by Richard Lyman Bushman

The Refinement of AmericaNonfiction Pick by LaGina Austin, Specialist of American Furniture & Decorative Arts
This book discusses the rise of an American genteel class in the 18th century that in turn led to a whole new consumer culture. It’s kind of academic, but well-written and fascinating for anyone interested in early American material culture. I must confess that my husband the history professor made me read it—and I did like it.

4 thoughts on “Top 15 Book and Movie Picks: Art, Antiques & Auctions

  1. My pick is the Exhibition Catalogue, “The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei” Tate Modern, 12 October 2010 – 5 April 2011

    The exhibition at Tate Modern features Ai Weiwei’s first major large-scale commission in Britain. Ai Weiwei (b. 1957 Beijing), who lived and worked in New York from 1981-1993, originally focused on performance art and altering ready-made objects and gradually moved onto creating innovative forms from Chinese porcelain. Ai’s recent projects take on larger scale and more interactive features, from “Fairytale” at Documenta 12, where he shipped 1,000 volunteers from China to the small town of Kassel, to the installation of millions of ceramic sunflower seeds at Tate Modern. On one hand, the idea of the “multiples” was familiar in the western art historical context; on the other hand, Ai is more interested in the dialectical relation of freedom and responsibility, artistic creation and labor-intensive production, modernity and tradition, foreignness and familiarity. In his work, one often encounters new ideas from old materials and the incorporation of Chinese material culture into the making or happening of things.

  2. My pick is Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine

    As first glimpsed at the Tate Modern, the sinewy and looming Maman spider compelled me to stared down mortality, morbidity, and other Large Topics. Encountering Louise Bourgeois’ Maman was one of the first startlingly visceral experiences of art I can remember. In the film documentary Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine, unfettered access to this introspective artist is both and disquieting and charming. Bourgeois looks squarely into the vortex of her own past and we are invited to cross the threshold and witness the wildly creative results.

    A perfect flick for the holidays!

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