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I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon): A Memoir

I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon): A Memoir

by Richard Polsky
I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon): A Memoir

I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon): A Memoir

by Richard Polsky


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In early 2005, Richard Polsky decided to put his much-loved, hard-won Warhol Fright Wig, up for auction at Christie's. The market for contemporary art was robust and he was hoping to turn a profit. His instinct seemed to be on target: his picture sold for $375,000. But if only Polsky had waited . . . Over the next two years, prices soared to unimaginable heights with multimillion-dollar deals that became the norm and not the exception. Buyers and sellers were baffled, art dealers were bypassed for auction houses, and benchmark prices proved that trees really do grow to the sky. Had the market lost all reason?

In I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon), Polsky leads the way through this explosive, short-lived period when the "art world" became the "art market." He delves into the behind-the-scenes politics of auctions, the shift in power away from galleries, and the search for affordable art in a rich man's playing field. Unlike most in the art world, Polsky is not afraid to tell it like it is as he negotiates deals for clients in New York, London, and San Francisco and seeks out a replacement for his lost Fright Wig in a market that has galloped beyond his means. A compelling backdoor tell-all about the strange and fickle world of art collecting, I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon) takes an unvarnished look at how the industry shifted from art appreciation to monetary appreciation.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590514566
Publisher: Other Press, LLC
Publication date: 04/26/2011
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Richard Polsky is the author of I Bought Andy Warhol and The Art Market Guide (1995–1998). He began his professional career in the art world thirty-one years ago and in 1984 cofounded Acme Art, where he showed the work of such artists as Joseph Cornell, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, and Bill Traylor. Since 1989 he has been a private dealer specializing in works by postwar artists, with an emphasis on Pop art. He is currently a contributor to artnet magazine online and lives in Sausalito, California. The author can be reached through his Web site:

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.

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