Reviewed: Warhol, A Life as Art by Blake Gopnik

During the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent degrees of lockdown, many have sought refuge in intimate cultural pursuits, turning (or returning) to books as a means of comfort, of learning new things, for stimulation, and as an escape from news and entertainment on screen. With The Art Newspaper's Book Club we want to shine a light on art books in their myriad forms—from exhibition catalogues and monographs to historical books and art-themed novels—and bring you exclusive extracts, author interviews, picture galleries and art world recommendations from the latest publications. Follow the Book Clubs weekly updates here and on social media using #TANbookclub. And let us know what you think.

Andy Warhol Photo: Karen Bysted

The book of the month, launches with Warhol: A Life as Art by Blake Gopnik (Allen Lane), a 961-page biography of the Pop Art pioneer that is filled with new insights into the artists work and personality. Gopnik spent eight years researching and writing the book—including 7,351 footnotes (not in the physical book, but available on the website of his US publisher, Harper Collins). “It may be the most heavily footnoted biography of all time,” Gopnik told The Art Newspaper during an Instagram Live interview. We asked three Warhol devotees for their take on this exhaustive, gossipy and informative volume—and whether it says anything new about the late artist.

Suzanne Fagence Cooper

Suzanne Fagence Cooper

Blake Gopniks audacious biography presents Andy Warhol as “a closet conceptualist who was Duchamps greatest heir”. It opens in 1968 with Warhol on a hospital trolley, his guts mashed by a gunshot wound. Only his eye, the pupil contracting in the glare of hospital lights, reveals that he is still alive. Starting deep inside Warhols body cavity, Gopnik exposes every layer of the artists life—his faith, his friends, his queerness—drawing on the mess of photographs, day-books, receipts, postcards and ticket-stubs saved from his studios. He teases us with gossip and asides: we now know Warhol wore pink Calvin Klein underpants and read Jean Cocteau as he waited for his final, fatal operation in 1987. We are also treated to forensic descriptions of Warhols silkscreen processes, with “huge, unwinding rolls of canvas dyed violent pink, orange and poison-apple green” littering his living spaces. And we discover that “its really much more interesting what you see walking from one gallery to another than what you see in the galleries”.

• Suzanne Fagence Cooper is a writer, curator and lecturer specialising in 19th- and 20th-century art. Her most recent book is To See Clearly: Why Ruskin Matters (Quercus)

Hettie Judah

Hettie Judah © Alex Schneideman

“Im just sitting on my bed here, playing with my yo-yo”. Phoning clients in 1950, the 22-year-old illustrator Andy Warhol made sure he stood out. “How are you?” theyd ask. “Im ok but I have diarrhoea,” hed whisper, already a master of disconcertion. From the yo-yo shtick through to his stint as a catwalk model in the 1980s, Gopniks Warhol emerges as a character who didnt suffer the same behavioural boundaries as others. Even at the cultural centre of things, he seems isolated. In public he was a perfect platinum pair with Edie Sedgwick, in private he lived with his mother, Julia; he kept diligent accounts of the Velvet Undergrounds heroin costs; he dreamed of coupledom and domesticity. Gopnik writes with eyebrow arched, perforating mythology with a sharpened quill, but he is sympathetic to this enduring oddness of Warhols performance as Warhol. He finds it is rooted in Warhols status as an immigrant, as a sickly child, and in his sexuality: “There was no way to be homosexual in post-war America without self-consciously playing a role, because the culture didnt leave you feeling there was any natural self you could inhabit.”

• Hettie Judah is a writer and critic. Her latest book, Frida Kahlo (LaurenRead More – Source