A Reporter Goes Undercover in the Art World

Bianca Bosker speaks to Ben Davis about delving into the parts of the art world not usually accessible to outsiders.

A closer look at Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegal the Elder. Photo: Henry Nicholls/AFP via Getty Images.

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The contemporary art world is nothing if not confusing. It is simultaneously deeply frivolous, and takes itself way too seriously. Its business dealings combine total mystification with conspicuous consumption, and the exact mechanisms by which one type of art gets celebrated above another are very often impossible to figure out.

If you’ve ever struggled to make sense of it all, the journalist, Bianca Bosker’s new book is worth picking up. It’s called Get the Picture, A Mind-Bending Journey Among the Inspired Artists and Obsessive Art Fiends who Taught Me How to See, and it joins books like Anthony Hayden Guest’s classic True Colors from 1998 and Sarah Thornton’s Seven Days in the Art World from 2008, as an entertaining behind-the-scenes chronicle of art, though in a very different and maybe even more confusing moment. Bosker previously wrote Original Copies (2013) about architecture in China that replicates famous world monuments, and Cork Dork (2017), where she went inside the world of fine wine to try to decode its rituals.

The author stands in front of two colorful abstract paintings at a gallery booth.

Author Bianca Bosker during a stint selling art Denny Dimin’s booth at Untitled Miami Beach. Courtesy of Bianca Bosker.

For Get the Picture, Bosker inserted herself in the striving, less-visible layers of the art industry, just beneath the glamorous images. She works the booth at a satellite fair in Miami where a gallery’s very survival hinges on a few sales. And as a studio assistant for a painter whose success becomes a major headache as speculators start flipping her work.

a book cover that reads 'get the picture' illustrated with a paint brush and daubs of paint

Bianca Bosker, Get the Picture (2024). Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

In some ways, Get the Picture will confirm all of the worst stereotypes about the contemporary art industry, and in others is the story of someone who slowly learns how to look past the caricatures by throwing herself into the thick of it, finding her own way to appreciate some of art’s more eccentric values.

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