50+ Books Every Art Collector Should Read

Last Updated on March 19, 2024 by Masha Eretnova

Art enthusiasts around the world are hunting for masterpieces with today’s art collecting market peaking at 60 billion dollars.

Collecting art may seem not that complicated, but understanding how unpredictable and lightly regulated art marketplace works and having access to market insights are essential to build really good collection with increasing value.

I would like to share my list of practical guides to collecting art books with art world practices that make art collecting today less time consuming and more enjoyable, and ultimately profitable.

This article contains affiliate links. It means no extra cost for you but a little commission (2-3%) for me to support my hobby and blog. Thank you!


Must-have Collecting Art Books

Here are some must-have art books, appreciated both by collectors and readers, that any art collector should consider having in their collection.

You can bookmark the whole list of 50+ books or start with my personal highlights.

My Top-9 Art Collecting books

  1. Art of the Deal: Contemporary Art in a Global Financial Market by Noah Horowitz
  2. The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art by Donald Thompson
  3. The Art of Buying Art: How to Evaluate and Buy Art Like a Professional Collector by Alan Bamberger.
  4. The Value of Art: Money. Power. Beauty by Michael Findlay 
  5. The Art Collector’s Handbook by Mary Rozell
  6. Double Vision: The Unerring Eye of Art World Avatars by Dominique and John de Menil
  7. Hit makers by Derek Thompson
  8. The Story of Art by E.H. Gombrich
  9. The Law for Collectors by Leonard D. DuBoff , Sarah J. Tugman 

Now let’s explore all 50+ books that are useful or fun to read for art lovers and collectors.


Books on buying and collecting art

The Art of Buying Art: How to evaluate and buy art like a professional collector

The Art of Buying Art: How to Evaluate and Buy Art Like a Professional Collector by Alan Bamberger.

This is classic book on art collecting thatwe read since 1990.

It provides practical advice on how to buy art, including how to evaluate art and spot fake piece or a reproduction, how to negotiate prices, and ultimately how to build a collection.

This book is also a steal (~$3) in terms of price on Amazon compared to some $40+ books of the list.

Can be a little lengthy and wordy though.


Collecting Art for Love, Money and More

Collecting Art for Love, Money and More by Ethan Wagner and Thea Westreich Wagner

This book offers insights from two prominent art advisors (husband and wife) on how to build a unique collection, how to navigate the art market, and how to care for your art.

Not forgetting the future returns on investments.

Good for aspiring and seasoned collectors. But is more of the sharing experience than an essential practical guide type of book.

The book may also focus mostly on NY area.


The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art

The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art by Donald Thompson

This book is very popular and made it to all the collecting art books lists.

And the popularity of the book makes sense. It speaks about what our brain likes – money, business, psycology.

It offers a behind-the-scenes look at the contemporary art market, including how prices are set, how auctions work, and how art is valued and why sometimes it is valued so freaking high.


The Orange Balloon Dog: Bubbles, Turmoil and Avarice in the Contemporary Art Market by Don Thompson

This time, Economist Don Thompson decides to analyse how big deals are happening, why extraordinary amount of money are paid for contemporary art and what may be the consequences.

He poses some of the very interesting questions like is there enough collectors for all the art?

The Orange Balloon Dog: Bubbles, Turmoil and Avarice in the Contemporary Art Market

Seven Days in the Art World

Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton

Sarah Tronton (who also contributes to Artforum.com and the New Yorker) takes readers on a journey through the contemporary art world, including visits to art fairs, auctions, and studios.

It reveals and explains the phenomenon of why modern art in booming in some way and helps collectors understand the art world.


The Art of Collecting: An Intimate Tour Inside Private Art Collections with Advice on Starting Your Own

The Art of Collecting Art by Diane McManus Jensen

The Art of Collecting: An Intimate Tour Inside Private Art Collections with Advice on Starting Your Own” offers advice for art collectors given through a series of 23 interviews with real collectors.

Diane is experienced gallerist and art world insider, gives a simple guide after sharing all the interviews.

There are maybe no big secrets revealed in this book, but it’s a great opportunity to sneak behind the scenes.

You can buy a used book on Amazon is new is somewhat too expensive (around $60-70)


Art Collecting Today: Market Insights for Everyone Passionate about Art

Art Collecting Today by Doug Woodham

Art Collecting guide shares practical tips and insights into US law system, art marketplace and collecting.

Doug Woodham is an economist, but also president on an auction house.

He included his personal experience as well as key insights from 100+ interviews with art advisors, collectors and other art market players.

Maybe not suitable for someone who invests in art with a certain budget in mind (under $5000).


The A-Z of the International Art Market: The Essential Guide to Customs, Conventions and Practice

The A-Z of the International Art Market By Tom Flynn

The Essential Guide to CustomsConventions and Practice is a somehow starting point for a new collector.

It explains main terms, how the art world functions, what are the leading galleries and tools to look for and buy art.

In also provides the retrospective so you can be able to see the dynamics of the art business.


Art of the Deal: Contemporary Art in a Global Financial Market

Art of the Deal: Contemporary Art in a Global Financial Market by Noah Horowitz

This book talks about art and finance at the same time, in short – about the commercialization of art.

Realistic and analytical.

It is a guide for collectors with allknowledge needed to understand current situation and where the market will be soon.

And the analysis is likely to be accurate, as Noah Horowitz is an art historian, but alos an expert on the international art market.


The Value of Art: Money. Power. Beauty by Michael Findlay 

The Value of Art written by Michael Findlay reflects on latest art deals, impact of 2020, but most importantly, financial and emotional value of art.

The book touches sensitive for many artists and confused collectors NFTs, digital art, activist art.

The extended edition came out in 2022.

The Value of Art: Money. Power. Beauty. (New, Expanded Edition)

Could Have, Would Have, Should Have: Inside the World of the Art Collector By Tiqui Atencio.

Tiqui started collecting at 18 and in this book tackles what it takes to become serious and successful art collector.

But it’s not only her personal experience. It is also a collection of insights from 80+ interviews.

Her latest book is a curious sneak peak into houses of most prominent art dealers to look at their interiors- For Art’s Sake: Inside the Homes of Art Dealers.

Some readers though perceive Tiqui is a little bit snobby and giving too much of multimillionaire vibe.

Could Have, Would Have, Should Have: Inside the World of the Art Collector

The Art Collector’s Handbook by Mary Rozell

The Art Collector’s Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Acquiring and Owning Art is exactly what you suppose it to be.

Very straightforward: what to collect, how to evaluate, where to find great art for your collection, pitfalls, collection management and so on.

Great for those who just starting and those who feel stuck in their collection growth to give a fresh look, but it is yet mostly a beginner’s guide.

The Art Collector's Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Acquiring and Owning Art

I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon) by Richard Polsky

In his book Richard Polsky, driven by his real experience of selling Warhol, draws a line between the times when the art market was about art and the business times.

It’s a story of negotiating deals, inside politics, auctions houses and pushed out collectors in a high-priced market.

More of the insightful, playful read that a practical guide for collecting.

I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon)

Beginner’s Guide to Finding, Buying, and Appreciating Art on a Budget by Lisa Hunter

This is probably one of the rarer book that actually addresses regular collectors who don’t spend millions on auction and yet would like to invest in art.

It is a simple and reassuring book to start a collection of original art without spending a lot of money.

Book will be great even if you think you don’t understand art (yet) and have no taste (yet).

The Intrepid Art Collector: The Beginner's Guide to Finding, Buying, and Appreciating Art on a Budget

The Rise and Rise of the Private Art Museum by Georgina Adam

In 21st century private museums grew like crazy. Especially in South Korea, US, Germany, China and Italy.

They are big, they attract lots of people and for collectors it is one more stop to look for unique and original art that otherwise may have never been displayed.

Georgina visited many of those museums and her book is her analysis of what she saw and how the private museums work.

The book is very short (around 100 pages).

The Rise and Rise of the Private Art Museum (Hot Topics in the Art World)

Confessions of a poor collector by Eugene Schwartz

This is a very short “book” published in 1970 but some of it is still pretty accurate and addresses a pain point- how the spend the least to build the best art collection.

Very hard to buy 🙂

Eugene Schwatz and his wife had an impressive art collection and he loved art.

“Collecting is the only socially commendable form of greed,”

Eugene Schwatz
collecting art books

The Art of Buying Art: An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Contemporary Art by Paige West

This book is for collectors with any budget and it goes through basics: where to find, how to evaluate and make the deal happen at a reasonable price.

Easy to read, nicely illustrated book, but maybe more of an illustrated guide than practise-stuffed guide for that price.

The Art of Buying Art: An Insider's Guide to Collecting Contemporary Art

The Art of the Steal by Christopher Mason

This is an amazing book to understand the secrets, plans, backgrounds of biggest scams and illegal things in art world, including Sotheby’s scandal.

For every art collector to be aware of and always on guard.

The Art of the Steal

Hit makers by Derek Thompson

An absolute bestseller on how things go viral in today’s over-saturated medias.

It is not only about art that is in museums, but about everything creative from movies to Facebook.

Important book for collectors to be able to distinguish viral from truly original and worth investing in long-term.

Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction

High Price: Art Between the Market and Celebrity Culture, by Isabelle Graw

The book is a very close look and critique of how the notions of artistic value, market value and symbolic are or should be connected.

Paperback costs some ridiculous amount of money (almost $300).

High Price: Art Between the Market and Celebrity Culture

Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art by Michael Shnayerson 

A bestseller about the history of biggest deals and high-end negotiations on the end of 20th century.

Insights from the greatest dealers and their work with famous artists like Warhol or Pollock.

It is a real chronicle of financial growth in the art market. Must for collectors for understanding the business.

Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art

The Story of Art by E.H. Gombrich

A classic art history book that provides a comprehensive overview of art from prehistoric times to the modern era.

Probably one of the books we need to start collecting from as understanding of the art will be very important for evaluation.

The Story of Art

The Short Story of Art by Susie Hodge

If you don’t want to dig into 600+ pages of Gombrich Story of Art, you should glimpse at the short version of it (under 250 pages).

It’s an easy guide through main art movements and figures, as well as the most famous and important artworks.

The Short Story of Art: A Pocket Guide to Key Movements, Works, Themes, & Techniques (Art History Introduction, A Guide to Art)

Ninth Street Women by Mary Gabriel

Ninth Street Women is a book about 5 women who made a revolution in American art: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler.

These women and knowing their ground breaking works is crucial for understanding female artists and their role in the art world.

Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art (LITTLE, BROWN A)

Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (In That Order) by Bridget Quinn

In this book, Art historian Bridget Quinn helps art lovers and collector to discover women in art from Renaissance to modern Abstract Expressionism.

An art collector should have a broad understanding on the art world and should not limit it to a male-dominated market.

For any female artist and collector it would be an inspirational, refreshing read.

Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order)

The Art Museum by Phaidoan Editors

This book is a museum in the pocket.

It is a collection of the best works across time and art styles, that is a visual history of art.

The Art Museum

Breakfast at Sotheby’s: An A-Z of the Art World by Philip Hook

Philip Hook distilled his 35 years of experience and created an alphabetical guide that helps art collectors to answer 3 questions:

  • How much is it worth?
  • How much will it be worth in 5 or 10 years’ time?
  • What will people think of me if they see it hanging on my wall? 

Can be an eye-opening read.

Breakfast at Sotheby's: An A–Z of the Art Word

Selling Contemporary Art: How to Navigate the Evolving Market by Edward Winkleman

Although this book offers art dealers’ perspective, it is a great read for collector to build better relationships with dealers and adapt to fast-changing art market.

The book touches very practical aspects like contract details and today’s trend – art fairs.

Selling Contemporary Art: How to Navigate the Evolving Market

Another book by Edward Winkleman, this time it’s a comprehensive guide on running a successful art gallery.

Perfect for art collectors dreaming of establishing their own private gallery and make money on art.

How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery (Second Edition)

It’s a short and funny book for a beginner in art work that feel a bit overwhelmed and shy to ask some questions.

It is less about collecting and more about understanding art which is also helpful if you are just about to start a collection.

Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in its Struggle to Be Understood

Understanding Art Markets: Inside the world of art and business by Iain Robertson Page

This books is a modern overlook of changes in art world: from rising demand and emerging markets in China to phenomenal growth in market value and investments in art.

For whatever reason the book is quite expensive ($60+ even for kindle version).

A few readers complained that it’s poorly written and may even have some factual mistakes yet the book had a good feedback from critics.

Understanding Art Markets: Inside the world of art and business

Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art

A great story and analysis made by two investigative reporters – Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo – on famous frauds in art in 20th century.

As the writers are real investigators, rest assured the book is very well researched and at the same time reads like a thriller.

Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art

Collecting and Care of Fine Art by Carl David

This is a full guide to buying art for your collection, evaluating, restoring, and reselling art.

Carl David is a professional art dealer and he can teach you how to make your deal or to pass on it.

Great advice, but if you read already 12 million shark or The Value of Art by Finlay, may seem not good enough for you.

Collecting and Care of Fine Art: An Introduction to Purchasing, Investing, Evaluating, Restoring, and More

The Art of Collecting: Personal Treasures that Make a Home (Victoria)

This book-magazine is a resource for inspiration to buy art for your house and decorate it with chic and taste.

It runs across many epoques and art styles, but it is more of a visual, inspirational, collection than an educational guide.

The Art of Collecting: Personal Treasures that Make a Home (Victoria)

A Collector’s View of Collecting Art by Fima Lifshitz M.D.

Fima Lifshitz M.D. enjoeyd collecting art and communicating with artists and her insights from such network resulted in this book.

She shares her experience on downsizing her collection as well.

A Collector’s View of Collecting Art

At Home with Art: A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting on any Budget by Olivia de Fayet , Fanny Saulay, and Marie Vendittelli 

This Beginner’s Guide to Collecting is all about how to purchase a good piece of art with any budget and most importantly how to buy art that fits in your house.

This is a very simple guide and it includes very practical tips, like how to frame the art you bought etc.

Short, insightful, great start for complete beginners.

At Home with Art: A Beginner's Guide to Collecting on any Budget

Collecting Art: For Pleasure and Profit by Dr. Harvey Manes

Dr. Harvey Manes shares his 40-year long personal art collecting experience in his book.

His approach is to address 2 types of art collecting: for pleasure and for money.

He also shares a very brief history of art.

Collecting Art: For Pleasure and Profit: REVISED EDITION

Collected by Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner

Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner were collecting contemporary art for around 30 years and have an interesting story.

It is more of their collection catalog for your inspiration and idea on how experienced art collectors combine and build a collection of almost 1000 works.

But there is also their interview.

Collected by Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner

Making it in the art world by Brainard Carey

It is one of the greatest step by step books on how to succeed in business of selling art as an artist.

It can be good for your collection if you are focused on young artists, art business or you are an artist yourself.

It tells different stories of how artists for your future collection can be discovered.

Making It in the Art World: Strategies for Exhibitions and Funding

The Law (in Plain English) for Collectors: A Guide for Lovers of Art and Antiques

The Law for Collectors by Leonard D. DuBoff , Sarah J. Tugman 

Probably the most practical book on the list.

The authors got together all information on legal aspect of collecting art (in any form), from buying it and insuring it to filing your taxes.

Must-have for stress-free collecting.


Biographies of Art Collectors / Dealers

Duveen: A Life in Art by Meryle Secrest

This book is a biography of Lord Duveen of Millbank – one of the greatest art collector of the XX century – from selling Boticelli to running an art espionage network.

As Meryle points out, Duveen saw the market this way: Europe has the art; America – the money.

For some art lovers Duveen tactics may appear very controversial, so it makes it even more interesting to read.

Duveen: A Life in Art

Double Vision: The Unerring Eye of Art World Avatars by Dominique and John de Menil

Double vision is one of the best art collecting books about the greatest collectors Dominique and John de Menil (XX century).

Their collection included around 17,000 art objects, but their worked extended to creating galleries, museums, chapels and advocating for civil rights.

This book is passionfor art weaved in 20th century history and presented through life of a beautiful couple.

Double Vision: The Unerring Eye of Art World Avatars Dominique and John de Menil

Tales from the art crypt, by Richard Feigen

This book is a look though 50 years of art dealing career of Richard Feigen.

He talks about art he sold, artists, colleagues, galleries and how to play the art dealing game.

Can be a useful read for collectors to understand art dealers perspective and tactics.

Some readers though see the book is too author-oriented and gossipy.

Tales from the Art Crypt: The painters, the museums, the curators, the collectors, the auctions, the art

Art Collecting Books On Specific Niche/Style/Region

International Directory of Corporate Art Collections – A Global Tour of Art in the Workplace

Probably the only guide on the corporate art collecting.

And to think of it, businesses display as many artworks as museums.

The recent edition overviews art in corporate worlds of different regions: Europe and Asia Pacific, North and South America, and South America and Mexico.

International Directory of Corporate Art Collections: A Global Tour of Art in the Workplace

Pop Art By Klaus Honnef

A dive into 20th century rebellious art style – pop art.

What was the message, artists and the fallout of pop art boom in terms of art history and art market.

This book is a part of the Basic Art Series including 136 books on most influential artists and art movements.

Pop Art

American Art: Collecting and Connoisseurship

This is technically a series of essays covering American Art of 19-20th centuries and will be essential to read if your focus in collection is American art.

The essays aren’t solely on history of art though, the second and third parts of the book are all about the making it as a collector.

American Art: Collecting and Connoisseurship

The House of Fragile Things: Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France by James McAuley

This book covers hard times for Jewish art collectors since 1870 tille end of World War II.

It is a tight knot of each family story, art they collected and art scene of that time.

Curious read, brilliant research.

The House of Fragile Things: Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France

Art and Collecting Art by Dr Oei Hong Djien

This book by Indonesian art collector Oei Hong Djien is a collection of publications thourhg his extensive (20 years) experience on collecting art (he is said to purchase more than 2000 artworks), auctions and managing an art museum.

Unfortunately I could only buy it traveling through Indonesia and never saw it being sold online worldwide.

It is focused on Indonesian art mostly but some concepts are universal.

collecting art books

Collect Contemporary Jewellery by Joanna Hardy

Amazing collection of expert tips, illustrations, main jewelry artists, and finally reference list where you can buy contemporary jewellery.

Youget both biographies of great crafters and knowledge how to invest in jewelry.

Collect Contemporary: Jewelry

Collecting Art Plastic Jewelry: Identification and Price Guide

A specific guide on how to choose, how much to spend and how to collect plastic jewelry.

The book is highly valued for beautiful photography and detailed descriptions.

Collecting Art Plastic Jewelry: Identification and Price Guide

Collect Contemporary Photography by Jocelyn Phillips

Collection of interviews, tips, and illustrations that can help you navigate art photography collecting.

Short book, more like a printed listing, and includes where to buy all the mentioned photos.

Collect Contemporary: Photography

Collecting African American Art: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

This books tells the story and showcases the effort of historian John Hope Franklin who aimed to collect, preserve and introduce to art lovers African American art.

Collecting African American Art: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Black Market: A guide to art collecting by Charles Moore

Art collector and art historian, Charles Moore breaks complex collecting issues into a simple guide.

This book focuses on history and collecting African American art but the insights and smart tips will be useful no matter what style or region you prefer.

The Black Market: A Guide to Art Collecting

Fiction Books On Art Collecting

The museum of innocence by Orhan Pamuk

This is the only fiction book on the list. Well, reading only serious books sometimes can be boring.

This book is about love, of course, but also about art and starting a museum.

Very romantic, moving, but also well written prose.

The Museum of Innocence (Vintage International)

Art Books That Will Make a Great Collection And Also Walk You Through Art History

Some more book ideas for your collection, that do not necessarily talk about collecting art, but more about art of different styles and epochs.

This list is definitely not complete as there are hundreds of books, analysis, opinions written and spoken on every artist, art movement and interpretation of art.

But they are great to start somewhere, if you are interested.

  1. Ways of Seeing” by John Berger – A seminal work of art criticism that challenges traditional ways of looking at art.
  2. The Shock of the New” by Robert Hughes – A illustrated collection of modern art from cubism to Pop Art.
  3. Art and Visual Perception” by Rudolf Arnheim – A seminal work on the psychology of perception and its implications for art.
  4. Art and Culture” by Clement Greenberg – A collection of critical essays on paintings and sculpture by the influential art critic.
  5. The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh” edited by Ronald de Leeuw – A collection of letters written by the iconic artist, providing insight into his life and work.
  6. Bauhaus” by Magdalena Droste – A comprehensive history of the influential German art and design school.
  7. Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews” edited by Calvin Tomkins – A collection of interviews with the influential Dada artist.
  8. Steal like an artist (New York Times bestseller). Super easy and quick book to read, an essential guide for emerging artists looking to gain more confidence and succeed in art. I would not consider it a masterpiece of the same value as a book about Van Gogh, but it is a nice addition to a beginner collection.
  9. Books on Banksy. He is a true phenomenon of our lifetime and it is crazy and inspiring that we can be eyewitness of his work and his message.
  10. Basquiat. There are a few books telling Basquiat story with insights on his art.

Note that some of these books may be rare and difficult to find, but they are all considered important works in the field of art history and criticism.


Where to shop for art books

There are several places where you can look for modern and rare art books to add to your collection:

  1. Regular or Art bookstore: Art bookstores specialize in selling books on art, design, and architecture, and can be a great resource for finding rare and unique books. Some art bookstores also have online stores, so you can browse their inventory from anywhere in the world. But there are some really good finds even in a regular book store, if you are just starting your collection, it is worth visiting a few.
  2. Auction houses: Auction houses often have sales dedicated to rare and collectible books, including art books. Keep an eye on upcoming auctions to see if there are any books that interest you.
  3. Online marketplaces: Websites like AbeBooks, Alibris, Biblio, and even Amazon are great places to find both new and used art books. You can also find rare and out-of-print books on these websites, but be sure to read the seller’s description carefully to ensure the book is in good condition and authentic. Just to give you an idea, Amazon has more than 15,000 books only in art history category, of course not all of them are worth discovering, but it proves that the market is huge.
  4. Art museums and galleries: A local museum or an immense national gallery is a great place to look for resources and check the art scene. Art museums and galleries often have not only paintings and prints, but bookshops that sell books related to their exhibitions and collections. Visit the exhibition to make sure this is something for your art book collection. You can also browse their online stores to see if they have any books that interest you.
  5. Estate sales and flea markets: While it may take some digging, estate sales and flea markets can sometimes yield hidden gems, including rare art books. Keep an eye out for estate sales that advertise art collections, as there may be books included in the sale. Sometimes it is worth going there, as there can be a nice old lady who never uses Facebook but holdssome of the rarest and nicest art or books.
  6. Local Art shops and book stores. If you are a globe trotter like I am, you will most likely find yourself eyeshopping in a local bookshop. Some countries and regions are well known for a specific culture or art movement. Most cultures have unique architectural ideas, textile techniques, less known artists with amazing art and it can be a very unique addition to your collection.

It’s important to do your research and be patient.

Some books may be harder to find than others, and prices can vary widely depending on the book’s condition, rarity, and popularity, as well as overall current trends in art.

I love not only to read books but to follow current trends and art markets research. There are curators that regularly post numbers and interesting stories behind the scenes of big auctions and art fairs.

If you want to invest in art, and do it smart, I highly recommend doing research!

Last update on 2024-06-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API