THE ART PROPHETS

THE ARTISTS, DEALERS, AND TASTEMAKERS WHO SHOOK THE ART WORLD

The author of I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon) (2009) returns with a paean to the prophets who saw profits in genres of art that were then outside the mainstream.

After defining his concept of “art prophet,” Polsky (Boneheads: My Search for T. Rex, 2011, etc.)—once a gallery owner, now a private dealer—begins his genre journey with Ivan Karp, who discovered Warhol and in some sense propelled public interest in pop art. Then the author moves on to the career of comic-book pioneer Stan Lee and traces the history of that genre from its origins to R. Crumb and graphic novels. Next, he looks at those out in San Francisco who helped create the art of the poster in the 1960s, explores the story of Peter Max and talks about Shepard Fairey’s poster of candidate Barack Obama that proved so popular—and litigious. In a sense, all of the artists Polsky discusses are/were outsiders, but he devotes a chapter to the real outsiders—people with no formal training whose works eventually commanded impressive sums at sales. The author continues with a look at Native American art, earthworks (Polsky got to see Robert Samuelson’s Spiral Jetty when that massive work emerged once again from the Great Salt Lake that had covered it over in high-water days), ceramics (which had to overcome its “craft” label), photography (featuring Diane Arbus and Richard Avedon), photorealistic painting and street art. In each chapter, Polsky celebrates the individual(s)—dealers, collectors, gallery owners—who first took a chance on that genre, tells us a bit about the early and most significant artists and considers the current status and challenges facing the genre. Unfortunately, the text includes no images of the works he references. Clear, concise and energized by the author’s fiery passion for his subject.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59051-406-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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A beautifully written, pensive, and restorative memoir.

A MONTH IN SIENA

A quiet meditation on art and life.

Matar’s Pulitzer Prize–winning memoir, The Return (2016), was about his Libyan father who was kidnapped in Cairo and taken back, imprisoned, and “gradually, like salt dissolving in water, was made to vanish.” His father’s presence reverberates throughout this thoughtful, sensitive extended essay about the author’s visit to Siena, where he ruminates and reflects on paintings, faith, love, and his wife, Diana. Matar focuses on the 13th- to 15th-century Sienese School of paintings which “stood alone, neither Byzantine nor of the Renaissance, an anomaly between chapters, like the orchestra tuning its strings in the interval,” but he discusses others as well. First, he explores the town, “as intimate as a locket you could wear around your neck and yet as complex as a maze.” Day or night, the “city seemed to be the one determining the pace and direction of my walks.” In the Palazzo Pubblico, Matar scrutinized a series of frescos the “size of a tennis court” painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in 1338. As the author writes, his Allegory of Good Government is a “hymn to justice.” Matar astutely describes it in great detail, as he does with all the paintings he viewed. When one is in a despondent mood, paintings, Matar writes, seem to “articulate a feeling of hope.” He also visited a vast cemetery, a “glimpse [of] death’s endless appetite.” Over the month, he talked with a variety of Sienese people, including a Jordanian man whom he befriended. One by one, paintings flow by: Caravaggio’s “curiously tragic” David With the Head of Goliath, Duccio di Buoninsegna’s “epic altarpiece,” Maestà. Mounted onto a cart in 1311, it was paraded through Siena. Along the way, Matar also ponders the metaphysics of rooms and offers a luminous, historical assessment of the Black Death.

A beautifully written, pensive, and restorative memoir.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-12913-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Clear journalistic prose makes sense of the befuddling legal entanglements in an ongoing battle that has become notorious in...

ART HELD HOSTAGE

THE BATTLE OVER THE BARNES COLLECTION

American Lawyer deputy editor Anderson chronicles the legal contests over the administration of America’s largest private art collection.

The author begins with a fair portrait of Dr. Albert C. Barnes, amasser of the famous Barnes Collection and creator of the eponymous foundation charged with its preservation. Barnes received his medical degree at 20 and went on to wrest control of a pharmaceutical company that owned exclusive rights to manufacture an internationally prescribed gonorrhea medicine. (His signature style throughout his life was to hire first-rate legal counsel and pursue his litigious course until he got what he wanted.) Barnes’s fortune, preserved through the Depression, permitted the assembly of a fabulous collection that included 180 Renoirs; it’s currently valued at six billion dollars. Just before his death in 1951, the doctor changed the terms of the foundation’s indenture, granting control to the trustees of Lincoln College, the oldest black college in America, setting the stage for a long round of disputes. While the collection gained tremendously in value over the next four decades, the size of the endowment that paid for the upkeep of the French Renaissance palace that housed it dwindled through mismanagement. In the 1990s, foundation president Richard H. Glanton, a high-profile African-American lawyer, oversaw the galleries’ renovation and undertook the expensive litigation responsible for bringing the foundation to the edge of ruin. Anderson describes these conflicts in a work that by his own admission is “a legal tale” rather than a scholarly biography or a work of art history. The absence of footnotes, he explains, springs from the desire of his best sources to remain anonymous. That’s not surprising, considering the rancor all this legal wrangling has generated, including a lawsuit over a parking lot instituted in federal court that invoked the Ku Klux Klan Act.

Clear journalistic prose makes sense of the befuddling legal entanglements in an ongoing battle that has become notorious in the art world and beyond. (16 illustrations)

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-393-04889-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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