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I BOUGHT ANDY WARHOL by Richard Polsky


by Richard Polsky

Pub Date: June 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-8109-4271-2
Publisher: Abrams

Often biting, always amusing behind-the-scenes glimpse of the heady world of art collecting.

A former gallery director, gallery owner, and private art dealer, Polsky has also written a series of financial guides to the art market and is a contributor to Here, he charts his 12-year quest to acquire a Warhol painting with the $100,000 he’d set aside for that purpose in 1987. The goal was at times tantalizingly close, at times impossibly remote as the art market paralleled the fluctuations of the stock market, whose excesses fueled and quenched its flames. In the author’s words, this is about “doing business in the art world,” a promise he fulfills while sparing the reader the stupefying details of its more mundane aspects. Polsky goes directly for the meat: the quirky characters and surreal situations, the high-figure deals and over-the-top greed, the outright snobbery and seemingly purposeful sexual ambiguity. Some particularly funny moments include his observations on a gallery receptionist’s icy disdain, the humiliating finesse required merely to get a rival dealer’s catalogue, and a Whitney show of Warhol portraits with many of the portrait subjects in attendance. At his weakest, Polsky interrupts the narrative to score an additional point or drop another name. But his genuine admiration for Warhol’s work makes this account seem honest, rather than carping. It’s a juicy tale of money and manipulation that rivals anything Wall Street has been able to deliver recently, but it’s not merely for those with the bucks to purchase a well-known work of art. Anyone with an interest in contemporary art and its celebration of those who have achieved their 15 minutes will take pleasure here.

Sound advice, together with a plethora of wry anecdotes on the subject of acquiring a work of contemporary art, brings the ethereal down to earth without dragging it through the mud.