Tales of people behaving badly make entertaining reading, but one can have too much of a good thing. Many chapters begin...




The Nazis’ plunder of Europe’s art treasures lacks the horror of their mass murders, but it was a terrible crime whose damage persists. Historian Harclerode (Arnhem: A Tragedy of Errors, not reviewed) and BBC News journalist Pittaway spent seven years researching this dismal affair.

Following Hitler’s armies, specialists poured into each occupied country to find, pack, and ship art to Germany. This was a matter not of a few hundred old masters but streams of packed railroad cars and millions of objects. Straightforward looting produced only part of this haul: the Nazis also acquired art by confiscation (from those arrested for forbidden activities) or extortion (from those who needed favors). Museums and collectors were persuaded to “lend” works to German museums or to trade them for “degenerate” art taken off display in the 1930s. Nazis also bought art. The war was a bonanza for dealers in all countries, including the US, and galleries fell over themselves in their eagerness to sell. Toward the end of the war, when individual Nazis needed cash, dealers gladly bought looted works. Most stolen art was never restored. Victims themselves, the Soviets plundered with a vengeance in their turn. Postwar Allied commissions had spotty success in returning looted art: they quickly found that soldiers who came across caches helped themselves, and prosecutions often failed because senior officers had benefited. Despite noble sentiments, all countries were reluctant to return stolen works, and 50 years later, looted art continues to turn up in museums, galleries, and private collections. That’s the good news. The bad news is that much is gone forever: vandalized or ruined through clumsy handling, poor storage, and neglect.

Tales of people behaving badly make entertaining reading, but one can have too much of a good thing. Many chapters begin with a detailed account of one shady episode, followed by another, then another. Readers can stop when they have had their fill and skip to the next chapter, which features a different series of shady episodes. This is a significant account, but only aficionados of the era should read it in its entirety.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-56649-165-7

Page Count: 402

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2000

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A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.


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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A dazzling visual homage to a music icon gone too soon.


A Los Angeles–based photographer pays tribute to a legendary musician with anecdotes and previously unseen images collected from their 25-year collaboration.

St. Nicholas (co-author: Whitney: Tribute to an Icon, 2012, etc.) first met Prince in 1991 at a prearranged photo shoot. “The dance between photographer and subject carried us away into hours of inspired photographs…and the beginning of a friendship that would last a lifetime.” In this book, the author fondly remembers their many professional encounters in the 25 years that followed. Many would be portrait sessions but done on impulse, like those in a burned-out Los Angeles building in 1994 and on the Charles Bridge in Prague in 2007. Both times, the author and Prince came together through serendipity to create playfully expressive images that came to represent the singer’s “unorthodox ability to truly live life in the moment.” Other encounters took place while Prince was performing at Paisley Park, his Minneapolis studio, or at venues in LA, New York, Tokyo, and London. One in particular came about after the 1991 release of Prince’s Diamonds and Pearls album and led to the start of St. Nicholas’ career as a video director. Prince, who nurtured young artists throughout his career, pushed the author to “trust my instincts…expand myself creatively.” What is most striking about even the most intimate of these photographs—even those shot with Mayte Garcia, the fan-turned–backup dancer who became Prince’s wife in 1996—is the brilliantly theatrical quality of the images. As the author observes, the singer was never not the self-conscious artist: “Prince was Prince 24/7.” Nostalgic and reverential, this book—the second St. Nicholas produced with/for Prince—is a celebration of friendship and artistry. Prince fans are sure to appreciate the book, and those interested in art photography will also find the collection highly appealing.

A dazzling visual homage to a music icon gone too soon.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-293923-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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