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A fascinating romp of a read!
Michael Rips, longtime art lover and devotee of the legendary Chelsea Flea, tells his personal history of days spent roaming the flea and visiting the people who populate it. Every dealer is a story teller at the flea, and most know how to create an allure around the objects they sell. Michael finds himself incapable of resisting the urge to collect contemporary African ritual objects, old robes and garments too precious to wear, and antique frames whose glass inserts have taken on the imprint ("ghost image") of what they once held. He finds that the flea and its dealers influence his tastes and desires, and his relation to material objects becomes more and more important as time passes.
This is truly a memoir of obsession and a reckoning with the surprising objects that draw us in, forever leaving their marks upon us.
"One does not grow up desiring to be a vedor or picker or hoarder, one does not go to school for it; the flea market is a clearing, found accidentally, on a path to, or away from, some other place. So there is an empathy in that space for those who are unsettled -- those for whom life's chaos is more tangible than its certainties."
— From Elise
An enchanting tale of the search for forgotten treasures at one of the greatest flea markets on earth.
Across America and around the world, people wander through flea markets to search for lost treasures. For decades, no such market was more renowned than the legendary Chelsea flea market, which sprawled over several blocks and within an old garage on the west side of Manhattan. Visitors would trawl through booths crammed with vintage dresses, rare books, ancient swords, glass eyeballs, Afghan rugs, West African fetish dolls, Old Master paintings, and much more.
In The Golden Flea, the acclaimed writer Michael Rips takes readers on a trip through this charmed world. With a beguiling style that has won praise from Joan Didion and Susan Orlean, Rips recounts his obsession with the flea and its treasures and provides a fascinating account of the business of buying and selling antiques. Along the way, he introduces us to the flea’s lovable oddball cast of vendors, pickers, and collectors, including a haberdasher who only sells to those he deems worthy; an art dealer whose obscure paintings often go for enormous sums; a troubadour who sings to attract customers; and the Prophet, who finds wisdom among all the treasures and trash.
As Rips’s passion for collecting grows and the flea’s last days loom, he undertakes a quest to prove the provenance of a mysterious painting that just might be the one.