The Art of Book Combinations

You might've heard about food and wine pairings, but have you ever considered book pairings? Reading two books interchangeably at the same time can bring about unexpected feelings and ideas. .art Domains Founder Ulvi Kasimov talks about his favourite book pairings below.

There are many well-known food and drink pairings that, when combined, taste completely different from when they’re tried individually. For instance, strong coffee and cold water. Wine and cheese. Salt, tequila, and lemon. Much is written about this phenomenon already, people still write about it, and they will continue to write about it. The aim of these pairings is to experience haute cuisine or simply just a delicious snack. I would like to share a tip on another but by no means less obvious and satisfying combination: art books. The thing is, books that are consumed as pairings can trigger unexpected feelings and/ or ideas. Those reactions stack up in our subconsciousness, resonating among each other and giving us new outlooks or insights. This phenomenon isn’t something that can always happen when you read the same books individually.

The first such book that impressed me and widened my thinking was the “Deutsche Bank Art Investment Handbook,” written by several art collectors. This book offers an honest attempt to present art as an asset class and describes methods to evaluate this kind of asset. The book was first published 15 years ago, but it still remains highly relevant. I’ve re-read it several times, once while reading another book — “ART/WORK” by Heather Bhandari and Jonathan Melber — at the same time. This book has an entirely different character, it somewhat describes the profession of an artist from the inside in all of its elements, apart from the creative process. It talks about art being like a craft, and goes into details on how to set up a workshop, write a resume, create a website, sell your work, pay your taxes, and many other practical tips.

Reading these books together, or in a close proximity in time, gives the reader a binocular view or even an X-ray revision of the world of art. One begins to see the overlaps and gaps between people who invest in art and those who create it. The book gives quite a bit of food for thought in regards to understanding the problems within the industry, while also stimulating your problem-solving abilities.

The next couple of books I’d suggest to pair together are “HYPE! Kunst unde geld” by Prioschka Dossi and “The Art Collector’s Handbook: A Guide to Collection Management and Care” by Mary Rozell. Both of them act as a sort of literary dessert for me. Each one is great in and of itself, but together they are something else!

HYPE! is a must-read, regardless of your relationship with art. It is a thorough investigation of the very phenomena of art, approaching the topic with its own curiosity and philosophy, in a fairly ironic and original way — this is especially notable when you try to read it in a single sitting. I have a personal history with the “The Art Collector’s Handbook”. I originally got the book because I was looking for a source where I could find a description of various private collections logged, and bought it only to help figure out how to use the ‘Collection Manager’ program. However, the book turned out to be amazingly interesting — it really is a collector’s handbook. The story of the Vogel family collection was especially touching: a nurse and mailman, whose modest proletarian savings managed to amass a collection of over 4,782 works, which they eventually donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. 

So what, precisely, is the magic of simultaneously reading these two books? Mary Rozell’s book lucidly and engagingly describes the trade of a collector in all its aspects, how and what to buy, how to insure, value, and exhibit art.

Reading both of these books, you’ll learn to appreciate that to be a collector you do not need to be a millionaire. The most important thing in order to be a collector is an inner fire —  the desire and passion for art.  “HYPE” complements this viewpoint and looks at the greater picture: why do people collect art at all? This question is explored in the book from many different angles and perspectives. To what extend is collecting a passion, and to what extent is it a desire for money, fame, and wealth? And, once again, you have the binocular effect, where you begin to see a three-dimensional side of the art world, that was previously not there.

The third pair of books is quite unusual. While both are books about art, they are such polar opposites both in their content and thinking, that it is not immediately obvious why they complement one another.

The first book is a philosophical work by Boris Groys, “In the Flow.” The very title gives you an idea of what the book is about. It discusses issues such as, what is art in the internet age, and what kind of novelties are likely to emerge. This work is useful in that it tells us about the foundations of our culture in our digital era. The second is Philip Hook’s bestseller “Rogues’ Gallery.” This book, in a very clear and engaging voice, describes the history of trading art, delineating a great deal of case studies and anecdotes. Combined, Hook’s and Groys’ book sheds light on previously invisible edges of the modern world of art. Together, they raise questions such as, can websites, as items of art, compete for collectors’ money with what is considered more traditional forms of art? How you can you halt diminishing performance into something more stable and fixed? Is it enough to document art merely in its digital format, and what will be considered it’s standard?

It is indeed curious that despite the fact that both authors describe completely different sides of the art world in their books, they still manage to find points of contact.

I will have to limit my review to these books. The common denominator among them is a passion for the subject. This is understandable, given that we all want to prolong our lives as much as possible. While this is obviously impossible, art and culture give us the opportunity to keep our legacy going — it is a sort of proxy to immortality. This very desire for immortality along with attempts to achieve it, will persist so long as the human exists.

Ulvi Kasimov
Ulvi Kasimov

.ART Founder, investor and art collector. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.