The premise of the book is pretty neat. I love the idea that you can be searching through your great aunt's estate, flea markets, or garage sales and stumble on a fantastic painting worth a million dollars. It's a new version of the American Dream popularized by PBS' Antiques Road Show. This books gives you a "how to guide" on becoming an art hunter.
The authors, Les & Sue Fox, have been in the collecting field since the 1970's. Their enthusiasm for "the hunt" is contagious. The authors' expertise makes the hunt accessible by breaking down the process into manageable steps. And by providing an artist's reference guide on works of art you may come across while out shopping.
The book opens with the story of a painting by Joseph Decker purchased at a garage sale for $5 (and presumably where the title of the book comes from). The buyer kept the painting hung in his dining room for a few years before deciding to look up its value for re-framing. What he discovered was he owned a valuable piece of art which he later sold to the National Gallery of Art for more then $1,000,000. The story illustrates the authors' point, that there are amazing works of art hidden around the world in attics and garages or grandpa's living room just waiting to be discovered.
Chapter three is filled with tales of paintings' discoveries including a baroque painting found hidden in a couch purchased from a flea market. Crazy right? The chapter has several stories on this theme and was my favorite part of the book. A stolen painting rescued from the curb (and later returned to its rightful owner), to paintings discovered in an old farm house, to a collection in a Paris apartment unvisited for 70 years. The amazing tales alone are worth a read.
The next section walks you through the basics of how to determine if a painting is an original, tips on checking out a potential purchase, sources to find experts, and what to do if you think you have discovered a valuable painting. This chapter also touches on fraud, the volatility of the art market, and what makes a painting valuable.
Chapter four, and the largest section of the book, is the artist profile section. It contains snapshots of artists and artist's work the authors feel art hunters are more likely to come across. It is the handy reference section of the book I can imagine pulling out while scouring booths at a flea market.
What's great about the The Art Hunter's Handbook is its portability. You could throw it in your glovebox while out visiting garage sales or thrifting. Keep it in your purse during flea market season and you have a handy reference guide at your fingertips. My only complaint is that the book is not available as an e-book. This is the perfect book for my i-pad because then I would be guaranteed to always have it with me in my portable library.
After reading this book I found myself wanting to hit up local garage sales over the weekend and join in the art-hunt.
The authors, Les & Sue Fox, provided me this copy of The Art Hunters Handbook to review free of charge.
Happy Art Hunting,