Inside the Secret World of Art Auctions

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Fast-paced, intriguing world mixes commerce and culture.

Have you ever wondered what happens behind the scenes at a prestigious auction house? Have you questioned how museums get their particular paintings - how folks dispose of their treasures?

In a world where everyone is familiar with the online bidding site eBay, and when millions of Americans have watched experts on "Antiques Roadshow" determine whether those dusty items from the attic are really priceless artifacts, the business of the auction houses and the art milieu are still an intriguing mystery to most.

In his novel, "Late and Soon," Robert J. Hughes takes us behind the scenes of this secret world. Through the eyes of Claire, a woman who is a specialist in art from the 19th century, that marvelous age of Victorian splendor, the paintings of Renoir and the writings of Dickens and Melville and Twain, the reader sees how an elite auction is put together, and how art is appraised, and chosen, for sale. You see the players, the people who put their art up for sale -- and the sometimes-heartbreaking stories of why -- and those who buy the art.

And we meet the people whose lives are transformed by art, by working with it, by touching it, by contemplating it.

Best-selling novelist Adriana Trigiani, author of books such as "Lucia, Lucia" and "Big Stone Gap," says "Late and Soon" is "filled with fine art, humor and insight. It's a novel for all readers who devour well-drawn characters, gorgeous prose and a page-turning story with gusto." Readers who want to learn about art, who want to discover fabulous paintings and who want to explore where the lives of the rich and the middle-class intersect, will love "Late and Soon."

Novelist Robert J. Hughes, who is also a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, has covered the art market and New York's cultural scene. He can talk about art and artists, auctioneers and auctions, cultured people and the cultural world.


Betsy Steve


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