Noah Horowitz

 

On his book Art of the Deal: Contemporary Art in a Global Financial Market

Cover Interview of October 03, 2011

A close-up

The book’s cover image tells a powerful story.  Martin Parr, the photographer, is one of my favorite artists.  Over the years, he’s built an incredible body of work documenting the minutia of contemporary consumerism—from the quirky luxuries of an aspiring English middle class, to fashion trends and tourist destinations overseas.  His characteristic use of bright colors, unexpected juxtapositions, up-close-and-personal details (think high heels, lipstick-smeared champagne glasses, cigarette butts and plastic surgery) and a deadpan blend of seriousness and irony is unmistakeable.

A few years ago he did a series of photographs at art and other high-end trade fairs.  I loved these piercing images and encouraged my publisher to see if we might be able to use one for the cover.  Parr obliged and the photo we selected, taken at the 2007 DIFC Gulf Art Fair in Dubai, is an amazing snapshot of art and business being conducted in today’s global marketplace: the bejewelled woman in the foreground with her flashy purse and art fair tote bag talking on her cell phone, and the man in traditional Arabic garb in the rear perhaps brokering a deal with a Western-looking woman.

Art of the Deal takes a serious look at these issues and Parr’s photograph offers a fun entry-point to them, delivering meaning and substance from the go.  The holding power of Parr’s image revealed itself to me shortly after the book was published when, in March earlier this year, I traveled to Dubai to attend this art fair for the first time and found this earnest yet bizarre scene of East meeting West repeating itself ad infinitum.

I hope, of course, that people actually delve within the book.  And, for a general reader, the preface and introduction provide a wealth of accessible insight into how the art market works.  From Damien Hirst’s famous sale at Sotheby’s in 2008, as the financial markets crumbled, to the rise of China and the Middle East as newly important centers of the trade, there’s plenty to be grasped.