Assiduous research underlies a text that will appeal principally to art historians and devotees of Asian art.

THE CHINA COLLECTORS

AMERICA'S CENTURY-LONG HUNT FOR ASIAN ART TREASURES

Two journalists explore the allure of Asian art for museum directors, collectors, archaeologists and others.

World Policy Journal editor Meyer and documentary producer Brysac have collaborated before (Kingmakers: The Invention of the Middle East, 2008, etc.). Here, they shift their focus to the Far East to pursue a story they stumbled across in the archives at Harvard University. Their discovery of some key letters propelled them into a scholar’s adventure—visits to libraries, museums, archives and relevant sites—and the result is a well-organized, if sometimes-dense, description of a passion shared by some fascinating figures throughout the past century. Some of the names are well-known (J. Pierpont Morgan, Joseph Alsop and Avery Brundage, for example), but others will be familiar only to art historians—e.g., Laurence Sickman, Denman Ross, Charles Lang Freer, George Crofts and Alan Priest. The authors float along on a fairly steady chronological stream, although they sometimes pause for some back story and context (we learn about the Manchus’ sumptuary laws, for example). They also consider the moral and ethical aspects of the removing-art-from-China enterprise. (Lord Elgin emerges as a touchstone.) It’s the old debate: Is it better to remove treasures from an unstable society and deny them to looters or leave them to face an uncertain, and probably dire, fate? Some of the authors’ collectors embraced the latter position, but most did not. The authors also explore various varieties of art—bronze works, sculpture, porcelain and paintings. We learn some personal tidbits about some of the principals, as well. Sickman (of Harvard’s Fogg Museum) collected first editions of Charles Dickens’ works; Lucy Calhoun, wife of William James Calhoun (envoy to China), was the sister of Poetry Magazine’s Harriet Monroe.

Assiduous research underlies a text that will appeal principally to art historians and devotees of Asian art.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-137-27976-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

HUMANS OF NEW YORK

STORIES

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.

WARHOL

An epic cradle-to-grave biography of the king of pop art from Gopnik (co-author: Warhol Women, 2019), who served as chief art critic for the Washington Post and the art and design critic for Newsweek.

With a hoarder’s zeal, Andy Warhol (1928-1987) collected objects he liked until shopping bags filled entire rooms of his New York town house. Rising to equal that, Gopnik’s dictionary-sized biography has more than 7,000 endnotes in its e-book edition and drew on some 100,000 documents, including datebooks, tax returns, and letters to lovers and dealers. With the cooperation of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the author serves up fresh details about almost every aspect of Warhol’s life in an immensely enjoyable book that blends snappy writing with careful exegeses of the artist’s influences and techniques. Warhol exploded into view in his mid-40s with his pop art paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans and silkscreens of Elvis and Marilyn. However, fame didn’t banish lifelong anxieties heightened by an assassination attempt that left him so fearful he bought bulletproof eyeglasses. After the pop successes, Gopnik writes, Warhol’s life was shaped by a consuming desire “to climb back onto that cutting edge,” which led him to make experimental films, launch Interview magazine, and promote the Velvet Underground. At the same time, Warhol yearned “for fine, old-fashioned love and coupledom,” a desire thwarted by his shyness and his awkward stance toward his sexuality—“almost but never quite out,” as Gopnik puts it. Although insightful in its interpretations of Warhol’s art, this biography is sure to make waves with its easily challenged claims that Warhol revealed himself early on “as a true rival of all the greats who had come before” and that he and Picasso may now occupy “the top peak of Parnassus, beside Michelangelo and Rembrandt and their fellow geniuses.” Any controversy will certainly befit a lodestar of 20th-century art who believed that “you weren’t doing much of anything as an artist if you weren’t questioning the most fundamental tenets of what art is and what artists can do.”

A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229839-3

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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