In early 2005, art dealer Richard Polsky decided to sell a small Andy Warhol "Fright Wig" painting for $375,000. The sale originally seemed like a success, but Polsky had misjudged his moment, badly. Over the next two years, the art world shifted on its axis. Auction houses began to take over the work traditionally handled by dealers, and prices shot into the stratosphere—a similar “Fright Wig” sold in 2007 for 1.2 million pounds. Polsky's book I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon) traces this sea change from its roots to its collapse, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the high-stakes, ego-driven world of contemporary art dealing.
Even if the closest you've ever come to a significant art sale is cruising past a Thomas Kinkade gallery in the mall, Polsky has an interesting story to tell. Unfortunately, large sections of I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon) prove that he isn't the most sympathetic person to tell it. The book's descriptions of wheeling and dealing are amusingly catty, but Polsky wastes too much time on obscure art-circle namedropping and anecdotes about his (numerous) mercenary exes, neither of which the average reader is likely to appreciate. More importantly, while the housing market is full of people who should empathize with Polsky's description of selling something at a grossly inflated price and then finding himself unable to afford its replacement, the immediately-post-Madoff era probably wasn't the smartest time to release a book about a man complaining about clearing a mere(!) $300,000+ on the Warhol sale of the title. Sure, readers might sympathize with Polsky's situation, viewing it as an allegory for the grossly inflated economy as a whole... but we're betting they won't. Polsky's book might be entertaining, but our financial wounds are still too fresh.