For decades the legendary Chelsea flea market sprawled over several blocks 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, seeking treasure.
In The Golden Flea, Michael Rips tells the story of his obsession with this curious, captivating world and its eccentric cast of characters. Writing with a beguiling style that has won praise from Joan Didion and Susan Orlean, Rips introduces us to the flea's 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 amongst 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.