The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 29 September 2003

I Bought Andy Warhol

by Richard Polsky

The author of this book sets himself apart from most of the rest of humanity in his very first sentence, in which he declares that he will set aside $100,000 to purchase his very own Andy Warhol painting. Throughout this chatty and occasionally entertaining book, Polsky demonstrates that he lives in an ethereal world of high value art dealing, and high cost living. Hitting rock bottom, to him, is having to live in a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco's very expensive and exclusive Pacific Heights neighborhood.

This book, however, is a more-or-less insider's view of the high stakes art-dealing world during its peak in the 1980s and its slump through the early 1990s. The paintings of Andy Warhol are the main story here, and we learn a great deal about what makes them so valuable, and about the people who deal in them. Polsky describes the various personalities he deals with, all of whom are pretty quirky and off-beat. And fabulously wealthy. While art is the object, money is definitely the theme of Polsky's narrative. He buys an excellent Warhol self-portrait, but is forced to sell it as the market dips. Eventually, he manages to clinch a deal, but it is hard to feel at all interested or engaged in this lifestyle, in which he pleads poverty at a $300 meal while holding tens of thousands in cash to invest in a luxury item. The scenes of how the art dealing world works are pretty interesting, but Polsky is hard to relate to, unless you too have an extra hundred grand to spend on paintings. (In case you miss that point, Polsky includes a self-indulgent appendix, in which he lists the values of the paintings he discusses at the time in the story, versus their values today. He went on to publish a sequel, about selling this same Warhol, the title of which expresses his regret that he didn't make more money on the deal. Then again, he has also been in the business of writing a series of guides to art-dealing.)

[Mail John][To List]

[Other Books about Art]