The Devil in the Gallery: How Scandal, Shock, and Rivalry Shaped the Art World

Rowman & Littlefield. Aug. 2021. 208p. ISBN 9781538138649. $45. FINE ARTS
Are the best artists badly behaved? This is the question Charney (art history, American Univ. of Rome & Univ. of Ljubljana, Slovenia; The Museum of Lost Art; The Art of Forgery) seeks to answer. He makes the case that rivalries, scandals, and shocking moments seem to have benefited the reputations of some artists. He opens and closes his exploration with stories about Caravaggio, a notorious “bad boy” painter in Renaissance Italy, who was known for threatening people, joining gangs of artists, and even killing a rival. Caravaggio is just one of the many artists detailed here (some from the Western canon, some from outside it). Charney covers a lot of ground in each chapter, with bite-sized but comprehensive coverage of dramatic events in the art world. His theme is artists who have learned how to cleverly rebel against societal norms while raising their notoriety and popularity. In the business world, competition may lead to cheaper goods, but in the art world, competition, rivalry, and scandal can raise one’s net worth.
VERDICT This book offers lots of peeks into the art world throughout history. It’s an in-depth look at varied time periods and artists, which readers interested in gossip, drama, or art history will enjoy.
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