Insightful, exciting art-world memoir.

I SOLD ANDY WARHOL (TOO SOON)

A fun insider’s look at the excesses and intrigue of the contemporary art market.

When artnet contributor Polsky (I Bought Andy Warhol, 2004, etc.) sold his beloved Warhol, a green Fright Wig, at auction in 2005, he thought he pegged the market at its peak—the painting sold for seven times what he’d paid for it in 1987. Little did he know that in the next three years, the art world would see a shake-up like never before, culminating in Rothkos, Picassos and Warhols selling for unprecedented sums as high as $80 million. Suddenly, the long-established relationship between dealers and collectors was turned on its head as the auction took center stage, in some cases allowing artists to bypass dealers and galleries completely, setting the scene for wealthy media moguls and businessmen to invest in art the way they invest in the stock market. The author, who has 30 years of private-dealer experience, found himself not only without his treasured painting but also struggling to keep up with the new demands of the market. “The sobering message,” he writes, “was the emergence of the auction houses as the new alchemists, converting oil and canvas into gold.” With refreshing frankness, Polsky delves into that chaotic time, detailing the careful combination of smarts and schmooze—and the occasional artificially enhanced auction result—necessary to stay in the game. His knowledge of the market makes his narrative as informative as it is engaging, and his enthusiasm for revealing behind-the-scenes tales brings the eclectic cast of the art world to vivid life. One telling anecdote describes his efforts to find a Fright Wig painting for a client, a task that had increased in difficulty because of Warhol’s steadily escalating value. Polsky ultimately found two, procuring the pair for just under $1.7 million. Weeks later, a single Fright Wig sold at auction for more than $2 million. Though the transaction netted the author a sizable commission, he still mourns the era when art was valuable for its aesthetic value and not simply as a commodity.

Insightful, exciting art-world memoir.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59051-337-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009

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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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