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The Auctioneer by Simon de Pury & William Stadiem

The Auctioneer: Adventures in the Art Trade - Simon De Pury

This autobiography takes the reader into the world of the rich and famous, of high-priced art, and into Simon de Pury’s private life. Art attracts an eclectic crowd; therefore, de Pury has plenty of tales of famous folk from several walks of life.

The book starts off with a lot of name dropping. It tapers off a bit in the second disc and a story eventually arises. However, the name dropping, usually with little to no context, continues throughout the book. I don’t follow the tabloids. I don’t read up on celebrities. So much of this book was lost to me. I recognized perhaps a tenth of the names mentioned in this book. This alone made the book rather boring for me. Sometimes it read like a catalog list of famous people the author knows, just one name after another after another after another.

Eventually, we get some interesting stories about people in de Pury’s life. For instance, he was dating a super model for several months and she was known as a portrait artist as well, specializing in nude portraits of herself. Yep. You read that right. The whole segment was rather amusing. Later in the book, we learn that she is not alone at all in her need to paint her own nude portrait. I was quite surprised that it wasn’t that uncommon.

Perhaps at the half way mark, the book reveals more about the author, taking us through his life from his school days, his college education, his first jobs and his first marriage, and on through to his divorce, dating, and then second wife. Bits and pieces of this I found interesting. He does spend some quality time talking about the first private collector he curated and collected for. He did a good job of portraying the man’s mood swings without making him sound like a jerk.

Still, I kept waiting to hear more about the art. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Various famous works and artists are mentioned throughout but little is discussed on the history of the pieces or on the lives of the artists. Really, this book is quite flashy and lacks depth all around.

I couldn’t tell if the author was doing some tongue in cheek with us readers or not. He talks about various people being humble or of a quiet nature and then tells a little story that shows the opposite aspect. Indeed, he does this with himself where he casually mentions that he just happens to be a baron, but that’s something he generally keeps in the closet instead of flashing it around. Ha! After a while, I just learned to laugh at these things.

Several times, de Pury talks about how hard life could be for those in his circle, including himself. However, I do believe we’re talking about the bottom two-tenths of the top 1% of the world’s financially gifted. I did find it hard to sympathize with these stories. Often, they only made the author sound like a wealthy elitist. On the other hand, it’s a rather interesting look into what the top 1% consider a travesty or a hardship.

Over all, the book was rather boring for me. So many of the people mentioned I didn’t recognize and the majority of them are come and gone from the story like a flash in a pan. The large amount of name dropping didn’t add substance to the book. I wanted more art and less flash and that never happened. I definitely felt the author was holding back from telling the reader his direct thoughts on the matter for the entirety of the book.

I received a copy at no cost from the publisher (via LibraryThing) in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Ralph Lister did a really good job with this book. He had a steady upper crust European voice for the entirety of the book. I really liked his expressive nature as I could just picture the author being excited or crushed or frustrated, depending on circumstances. Occasionally, he was required to do some accents and he did them well.