From the Publisher
"[Richard Polsky] weaves his personal story into the story of a business culture that has grown more venal and volatile in recent years…. Art dealers have played a pivotal role in this pricey shuffle, and Mr. Polsky paints them as an entertainingly infantile, manipulative bunch… That Mr. Polsky operates at the periphery of the art world, and knows it, is an appealing aspect of I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon)."—Wall Street Journal
"An account of the runaway market of the mid-2000s—where auction houses sold close to $400 million of art in a night, and the value of a Warhol might quadruple in a month—and one private dealer’s attempt to adjust….Polsky’s prose is as unpolished as his persona, but that only adds to the rare candor that animates his riveting account of behind-the-scenes trading. Now that the market has plummeted, we can only hope he’ll be able to buy back his Warhol and complete the trilogy."—San Francisco Magazine
"[A] breezy memoir of the art market before the economic crash."—The New York Review of Books
“Entertaining…[Polsky’s] memoir takes the reader on a wild ride about the business of buying and selling this real estate, where one must learn how to play it cool, even when millions of dollars are at stake.”—Carol Hoenig, The Huffington Post
"In this instructive, irreverent and often uproarious memoir, Polsky explains the capricious functioning of the art market and the economic and cultural forces that have transformed it from the 1980s… A highly enjoyable and informative insider's guide to a milieu to which few are privy, this will be of interest to the general reader seeking to understand the art world's economic evolution and cultural impact, told through a delightfully vital mixture of memoir, reportage and social satire."—Publishers Weekly
"A fun insider's look at the excesses and intrigue of the contemporary art market…[Polsky's knowledge] 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…Insightful, exciting art-world memoir."—Kirkus Reviews
"A wild roller coaster ride is nothing compared to the vertiginous ups and downs of the contemporary art market between 2005 and 2009 described by Richard Polsky… The scene is crazy, sexy and never boring…A sardonic guide takes readers on a dizzying, dishy and fascinating tour of the recently crazy market for contemporary art."—John McFarland, Shelf Awareness
"An exciting, engaging, and marvelously candid view of the art world. For anyone even faintly curious about art this is a must."— Thomas Hoving, Former Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
In 2005, art dealer Polsky's prized Andy Warhol “fright wig” self-portrait sold at auction for $320,000. If he had waited just a couple of more years to sell, Polsky would likely have garnered millions: in 2007, Warhol's Green Car Crash sold for $71 million. In this instructive, irreverent and often uproarious memoir, Polsky explains the capricious functioning of the art market and the economic and cultural forces that have transformed it from the 1980s, when art dealers fostered relationships with artists and other dealers, into today's market when dealers cultivate stronger relationships with auction houses than with collectors and artists. Polsky (I Bought Andy Warhol) is a high-spirited and self-deprecating raconteur who relishes exposing the idiosyncrasies, absurdities and hypocrisies of his industry and its biggest players. A highly enjoyable and informative insider's guide to a milieu to which few are privy, this will be of interest to the general reader seeking to understand the art world's economic evolution and cultural impact, told through a delightfully vital mixture of memoir, reportage and social satire. (Sept.)
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'ssteadily 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. Agent: Bonnie Nadell/Frederick Hill Bonnie Nadell Literary Agency
Read an Excerpt
The real highlight for many art world patrons is the Sunday morning brunch at Christie’s (Sotheby’s has a cocktail party). From eleven o’clock to one, jacketed waiters serve champagne and tend to a spread of food, hoping to create a festive atmosphere for potential buyers. Watching my colleagues stack their plates with leaning towers of mini-bagels and lox, assorted pastries, and croissants, is a sight to behold. The less important the player, the more food they take. The Yiddish word chazzer (pig) quickly comes to mind. I’ve even caught a member of “Lilco” (Long Island Ladies Co.), a posse of bored rich housewives masquerading as art consultants, sneaking food into her purse.
Personally, I only sip champagne. I’m there to do business. For that reason, I always make it a point to have breakfast before going to Christie’s. There’s nothing worse than trying to shake the hand of a client when yours is covered with cream cheese. Ditto for trying to have a serious discussion with a collector, who’s staring at your teeth, dotted with black poppy seeds from a bagel. Finally, unlike me, the real power dealers don’t touch the champagne, demonstrating their taste is above the inexpensive label being served.
Simply put, the Christie’s brunch offers a unique overview of the players who make up the art market. Whether it’s a dealer exaggerating to a colleague about how much money he just made on a sale, a collector lying about how he was the underbidder on last year’s recordbreaking work by (fill in the name of a famous artist), or an auction house expert insisting whatever painting you point to is the best of its kind, it’s all pretty amusing–to an outsider.