We’ve all had moments in life were we’ve thought in frustration, “if only I’d been a little more patient!” These moments are typically about something small in the grand scheme of things, like buying something retail when you could have found it on sale a week later, or chopping your hair off because you just couldn’t deal with the awkward grow-out period (guilty!). But, what happens when that something small turns out to be something rather large…like millions of dollars large?
This is exactly what art dealer Richard Polsky agonizes over in I sold Andy Warhol (too soon). In 2005, Polsky sold Warhol’s “Green Fright Wig” from his personal collection at auction for $320,000; a paltry two years later, Warhol’s “Green Car Crash” (a comparable piece) would sell for a whopping $71 million. OUCH! But, don’t cry for him, Argentina, that’s only the first part of the story. I sold Andy Warhol (too soon) is part history and economics lesson, part satire and part shoulda, woulda coulda, tale. Unlike some of the collectors you meet in the pages of the book, he has a true passion and appreciation for Modern (especially Pop) Art. He’s studied it, understands it and becomes the down to earth everyman in an increasingly elitist world. This makes it all the more heartbreaking that he didn’t have his moment in the sun – selling his beloved “Green Fright Wig” for top dollar at auction.
In the pages of I sold Andy Warhol (too soon), readers will witness the fascinating process of auctioning art at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, understand the relationship between art dealer and collector and have a front row seat in the fickle world of contemporary art, which is described as “high school, but with money.” You’ll meet Ed Ruscha, discover just how big David Geffen and Steve Wynn’s collections are, why Warhol’s (and others) works suddenly went through the roof and why Hollywood and the art world really don’t mix. Just like the tension of an art auction, you’ll wait with bated breath to see if Polsky will ever be able to buy back his “Green Fright Wig,” or if he’s able to broker another deal that will bring him the millions he’s seen others collect.
This book was a fascinating read and one I highly recommend. I’ve always enjoyed “insider” novels and have a great love for Pop Art. I didn’t know anything about how the art world operated before I read this book, only that artists like Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Ed Ruscha were fetching top dollar at auction. In this quirky and incredibly frank novel, Polsky engages readers without making his story sound like a pity parade. Sure, he sold his favorite piece of art too early, and sure that will be something he carries with him for the rest of his life; but he also doesn’t sit inside his home feeling sorry for himself. He uses his connections and knowledge of the business to find ways to stay viable and profitable in an industry he loves, but continues to change around him.
I Sold Andy Warhol (too soon) will certainly be a conversation piece on your coffee table, bookcase, or wherever you place it and I’m willing to be that you won’t look at the art market the same way ever again. I also recommend having a history of modern art book close by, or access to the internet while you’re reading if you aren’t immediately familiar with the artists or the works they represent. Enjoy!
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