There are so many Warholian moments in this superb biography that it’s hard to know where to start ... it would be wrong to imply that Gopnik’s book is one that Warhol might have written himself or, indeed, even liked very much. Far from being a ready-made, assembled from the detritus of the scholarly-industrial complex, Warhol: A Life As Art is the product of years studying 100,000 or so original documents housed in Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum. The artist was a lifelong hoarder, and Gopnik’s research is intricately based on a florid haul of engagement diaries, business letters, love notes, theatre tickets and tax returns ... The first, and most audacious [claim], is that Warhol has 'overtaken Picasso as the most important and influential artist of the 20th century' ... This is big talk, but Gopnik persuasively assembles his case over the course of this mesmerising book, which is as much art history and philosophy as it is biography ...Gopnik is also keen to dislodge the many canards about Warhol’s private life. The most adhesive of these is the one about him surrounding himself with every kind of kink and freak while remaining fastidiously hors de sexual combat. Gopnik carefully rummages through the laundry basket to reveal plenty of evidence that Warhol was an enthusiastic player in the NYC gay scene from the moment he first stepped off the Greyhound bus from Pittsburgh in 1949 ... If we are determined to continue seeing Our Andy as fey and de-natured, Gopnik suggests, then it says more about our lingering homophobia that cannot bear to contemplate an artistic genius 'caught in the act with men.'
... a slow-burn marvel, carefully connecting sections of Warhol’s complicated life which at first glance don’t seem to interlink. The result is a revealing, cohesive whole ... Gopnik establishes throughout the biography the ways Warhol blazed a trail for the gay community to recognize and celebrate each other during a time when being out might lead to bodily harm, or worse ... an engrossing, comprehensive look at the twentieth century’s most famous artist, who 'always wanted to make work for a world where x and not-x could be true at the same time.' In Gopnik’s expert hands, we’re able to see the contradictions and possibilities in Warhol’s work.
Having interviewed more than 260 people and consulted some 100,000 documents, Gopnik succeeds in establishing the chronology and tracing the fine lines of Warhol’s many succeeding interests, decisions, departures, whims and relationships of all sorts. Few artists’ biographies can have recorded so many changes — in style, stance and social milieu — occurring often on a week-to-week basis for some 35 years, amounting to a density of information more akin to, say, military history. We will all find our favorite Warhol avatar, of the hundreds on offer, somewhere within these pages ... Gopnik excels at disentangling the strands of the narrative and correcting common lore ... Gopnik’s patient chronology brings a sense of proportion to the outline of the life ... few direct quotes, sadly ... There are several odd features to the book. Gopnik seems to think that too many proper names will confuse the reader ... throws off such mixed signals that it is difficult to determine what kind of reader it was intended for. It is a 900-page brick that evinces much studious research, and yet it is pitched as if it were a feature in a newsmagazine, or as if its readers were primarily serial consumers of celebrity bios. Not expecting the reader to identify Marcel Duchamp or Robert Rauschenberg on first appearance may be standard practice, but Gopnik doesn’t trust you’ll remember them from one time to the next. As a consequence, only a handful of people ever appear without epithets ... Gopnik has no confidence in the reader’s attention span, so recapitulations are constant; every point is made, made again, recast slightly, made yet again ... The writing is often lazy and reductive in ways that suggest the book is meant for immediate consumption rather than durability ... when Gopnik takes off on a literary flight, the vessel is likely to crash ... All those things make the book much more difficult to read than it ought to be ... Gopnik gives the reader all the pertinent facts of Warhol’s life, yet his ever-present lecturer’s whiteboard obscures all but the occasional fugitive glimpse of Warhol’s soul.
Warhol lived one of the great lives of the 20th century, and he now has a biography worthy of that life ... Even at 976 pages, the book rarely leaves you wanting less ... In this textured portrait of an artist of annihilating smoothness, Gopnik has finely rendered many of Warhol’s milieus. Perhaps most endearing is the intricate social geography of gay New York in the 1940s and ’50s ... In effect, Gopnik has written two books. The first is an exhaustively researched and definitive account of the life. The second is a series of apologies and excuses for a tax cheat, voyeur-sadist, bad son, skinflint, publicity hound, social climber, shopaholic. Some small-bore skepticism along the way might have helped make the canonical judgment more credible.
... a huge, meticulous tome ... The level of detail is impressive ... Warhol, born into poverty in Pittsburgh in 1928, had a work ethic driven both by an obsession with money and by a deep need for artistic acclaim. The through line of Gopnik’s book is Warhol’s constant, brilliant, and often ridiculous effort to satisfy these hungers ... Without sounding contrarian or condescending, Gopnik pushes back against simpler, standardized takes on Warhol ... to anyone interested in the material and financial history of the art world, or in the sausage-making details of the postwar art school–to-gallery pipeline, Warhol will be invaluable ... Warhol eschews both sensational revelation and armchair psychologizing ... The last seventeen years of Warhol’s life, almost half his professional career and fully two-thirds of his fine-art career, are given short shrift. Glossing over the sordid details of Warhol’s adventures at Studio 54 is forgivable ... fairness demands more coverage of New York during the AIDS epidemic ... we see him embrace the urbane camp of the ’50s; watch him bounce between the refined milieu of the Upper East Side and the more militant West Village in the ’60s; we follow him into the BDSM dens and club world of the ’70s. The sense of absence in the ’80s is disappointing, if only in comparison.
No one, thus far, has excavated anything surprisingly at odds with the Warhol reflected in his work or in the books he published. Everyone is less and more than their publicity, and much of Warhol’s life, like everybody’s, has the prosaic quality of nothing special. It doesn’t detract from his art to observe that Warhol had no imagination whatsoever. His literal-mindedness was his strong suit ... The extreme tension in Warhol’s work between meaning and non-meaning has to do with random gestures, accidents, and visual noise carrying as much weight as design. Likewise, a lot that happened in Warhol’s life just sort of happened, the way lots of things happen in every life. This obvious fact, and much else that would occur to most sentient beings, has entirely eluded Blake Gopnik, whose elephantine, ill-written, nearly insensible Warhol has now been unleashed, weighing in at nine hundred pages, any of which suggests nothing so much as an incredibly prolonged, masturbatory trance of graphomania ... None of this effort has produced anything resembling a fresh idea. Information that has been available for decades is rolled out as startling news, embedded in a dense lard of fatuous pedantry and vapid generalizations. Gopnik’s writing generally reads like boilerplate cribbed from bygone reviews and magazine articles, recast in a squirmy, sophomoric prose that deadens everything it touches ... Gopnik’s ideal reader is someone who has never read a word about Warhol or contemporary art, seen a movie, or formed two consecutive thoughts without assistance ... Warhol would shrink to about twenty pages if he simply stated what happened and left it at that ... This book could appear only at a time when the bohemian mobility, sexual freedom, and cultural ferment of New York in the Sixties, Seventies, and early Eighties are not simply being forgotten, as people who were there die off, but becoming unimaginable.
Huge claims are made for Andy Warhol in this massive book. He is, says Blake Gopnik, 'the most important and influential artist of the 20th century', who knocked Picasso off his throne ... to which the only intelligent response is a derisive: pig’s bottom! ... Warhol, surely, was a tiny overinflated talent, very much a product of Fifties and Sixties pop culture, whose sole insight was that lowly illustration had potential as fine art, that the transitory could be creative ... Warhol destroyed his archives of early commercial art. He wanted to be remembered only for his society portraits, which are tawdry. Much like this appallingly bloated book, with its naff prose: 'licking his lips at the prospect', 'muddied the waters', 'dipped a tentative toe', 'to add injury to insult', 'spent a pretty penny' ... Asked why she shot Warhol, Solanas said: 'He’s a piece of garbage.' His work mostly was.
Gopnik’s staggeringly thorough biography Warhol examines the artist in granular detail without losing the sweep of his story. Gopnik relates Warhol’s advancement from the child of a working-class family in Pittsburgh to a successful commercial artist in New York to an avant-garde icon and entrepreneur – but also adds to, and frequently corrects, the record ... Admittedly, some readers will tire of descriptions of seemingly every endeavor Warhol lent his name to, and agree with the statement that 'the primary creation of Andy Warhol is Andy Warhol himself' ... Admirers of Warhol will rejoice at this book, which does not gloss over the calamities in his personal life – including an attempted murder by Valerie Solanas that brought him close to death in 1968 – and which celebrates the legacy of Warhol’s art. Even those with a casual interest in the artist are likely to find themselves enthralled.
Gopnik’s biography excavates many new or forgotten angles ... the bio doesn’t really hum until the 1960s—the Factory years ... [Regarding the] final phase of Warhol's career...Gopnik doesn’t make a convincing case for why these portraits were anything other than paydays to fuel Warhol’s shopping addiction ... Gopnik isn’t particularly interested in Warhol’s moral deliberations. Just as the artist leveled ethical distinctions into particolored mulch, Gopnik breezes through Warhol’s indiscretions ... Gopnik’s bio tends toward hagiography ... Gopnik’s book is rife with...clunkers. Some of them are baffling ... Some of the writing is regrettable ... Other sentences have about as much weight as Styrofoam ... Ultimately, what’s missing in Gopnik’s book is a clearer perspective on Warhol’s mature years, when he personified art market excess.
... thoroughly enjoyable ... There is plenty of gossip, sleaze and desperation for Gopnik to feast on, and even some art. But the real pleasure of the book is how he tracks Warhol’s constant dance between art and commerce, between Warhol’s often daffy creations and his scrupulous score-keeping when it came to business and his public image ... By the time you’re through with more than 800 pages, it’s the remarkable 20th-century life that lingers, not so much the work.
... detailed, enthusiastic and absorbing ... Mr. Gopnik expertly traces Warhol’s technical and intellectual roots to his studies in painting and illustration at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute of Technology ... laudable if not impressive detail.
Blake Gopnik’s Warhol isn’t the most critical entry into an already extensive library about Warhol ... Gopnik prefers a softer approach in his roving biography. Some of the most entertaining and lively sections of Warhol focus on the curious and deranged cast of misfits from his Factory-Viva, Candy Darling, Ondine, tragic Edie, all of them suspended forever in the fading silver decor ... However, it’s in Gopnik’s assessment of Andy’s art that Warhol becomes truly alive and new. Gopnik, the former chief art critic for The Washington Post, treats Warhol’s work not as a mere addition to his celebrity, but the main show. In Gopnik’s assessment Warhol was a serious, consummate artist masquerading as a shallow gadabout ... The Warhol that emerges from Gopnik’s book is far more human, more sensitive and gentler ... Weighing in at a hefty 1000 pages, Gopnik’s careful, insightful biography – clearly the work of many years of detailed research – is for both the devout and the agnostic.
Blake Gopnik, who, in his dauntingly detailed Warhol: A Life as Art, makes a series of extraordinary claims. Warhol, he says, has not only 'overtaken Picasso as the most important and influential artist of the 20th century', but now occupies 'the top peak of Parnassus, beside Michelangelo and Rembrandt' Such hyperbole is risible but is born from a sense of Warhol’s sheer heft as a cultural figure ... However, we now view him with the benefit of more than 30 years of hindsight and, as Tate Modern’s new retrospective brings home, it is hard to recapture the original thrill and purpose of Andy Warhol. He has become a historical figure, the compère of glamorous modernity at its brief apogee. His place and time have shrunk to a seedy-glitzy instant in New York history ... So it leaves Warhol a figure of fascination ... As an artist, though, now that his historical moment has passed, he stands a long, long way short of the peak of Gopnik’s Parnassus.
Andy Warhol had a big dick. I reveal this immediately for three reasons. First, to sound an appropriate note for Blake Gopnik’s 976-page whopper of a biography, a tome so intimately informed that it is impossible to imagine its depth of detail ever being out-mined. Second, because the artist’s sex life is a key focus of the book. Third, and most important, because it’s a question that nobody is asking, but everyone is thinking: and if Warhol taught us anything in his art it is not to search too loftily in humanity for motivations and directions ... Gopnik,...clearly has no doubts about the size and scope of Andy’s achievement — the word 'genius' gets several tremulous outings — but the view from Manhattan is not yet the view from everywhere else. Warhol’s eventual importance is far from settled ... it is impossible to imagine anyone finding out much more about Andy than is recorded here. In that sense it’s definitive ... But big-picture conclusions are not what this book does best. Its diary format, its division into years, is great for detail, but less great for overviews. When it comes to Warhol’s films, each of which gets a slab of book to itself, we are definitely in the realm of too much information ... For all its weight and length, Warhol: A Life as Art feels a tad premature. The next Warhol biographer hasn’t a hope of bringing more detail to the task, that’s been done. What they might bring is a truer perspective.
... an exhaustive, 900-page journey though the American artist’s shapeshifting life ... Gopnik assembles a brilliant portrait of Warhol and this milieu, but it’s still hard to know why the artist changed so much ... Gopnik concludes that Warhol has 'overtaken Picasso as the most important and influential artist of the twentieth century,' and now occupies 'the top peak of Parnassus, beside Michelangelo and Rembrandt.' This seems like a leap.
... exhaustive ... as [Gopnik] tracks Warhol’s celebrity, his greatest strength is explaining in accessible terms what Warhol’s art achieved and why it matters ... At times, Gopnik expresses a rather modernist triumphalism, pronouncing Warhol a 'genius' who has overleapt Picasso as the most important artist of the 20th century, but mainly his argument is eloquent, subtle and sharp ... [Gopnik] makes grand and more-or-less convincing justifications for Warhol’s celebrity portraits – they might eventually have been shown as a group, as though recording high society itself – and suggests Warhol’s 'Business Art' of the 1970s was a legitimate conceptual project. Still, he concedes that late work, from pet portraits to celebrity endorsements, did not live up to the artist’s standards ... As for the biography, riddled with drugs, sycophancy and shopping sprees, Gopnik is deft at telling without judging. He makes fine distinctions between Warhol’s routine use of amphetamines and the addictions of the nasty 'A men' who came out at night in the Factory after the hard-working Warhol had gone home to have dinner with his mother ... Still, the critic can be too reticent. When Gopnik relates without explanation the actress Viva’s claim that sexual assaults were happening after hours on the set of Lonesome Cowboys, you are left wondering if you aren’t supposed to take her shocking accusations at face value ... Warhol once talked about the celebrity as a half-person, a partial media portrait that misled real people into envy. Gopnik not only establishes the importance of Warhol’s art but also uncovers the whole man.
Gopnik has constructed a portrait of the late Andy Warhol that has left no fact unturned. This lengthy, lively tale is designed to enchant both Warhol fans and those new to his unusual take on visual artistry and life in general ... [a] rich, highly detailed tapestry ... whether it be Warhol’s sexual escapades or his charms with the society ladies, art collectors and a large admiring band of misfits and dreamers, there is very little in this extensive examination about which the author has not provided on-the-scene, almost minute-by-minute, quotations and recollections from Warhol’s observers, detractors and lovers. The artist’s devotees will enjoy the revelations Gopnik has teased out regarding a man who, like Picasso and Dalí before him, enjoyed shocking his public almost as much as he relished displaying and purveying his undeniable, genius-level graphic gifts.
It always seems to depend, more or less, on who’s asking. He could be The Man Who Wasn’t There, and also everywhere; a lightning rod, a walking Rorschach blot, an art star of both the highest and lowest order. All of those Andys exist — sometimes simultaneously over a single paragraph — in Blake Gopnik’s Warhol, a frank, gossipy, but not unacademic chronicle of one of the 20th century’s most foundational and confounding figures ... Seemingly no biographical detail is too big or too small for his 976-page colossus ... Gopnik’s background as historian and critic can sometimes lead him down esoteric paths, and he tends to give his subject more credit for certain creative choices than might be due; the sheer volume of material, too, can be both exhaustive and exhausting. But the book also grounds its mad whirl of sheikhs, freaks, movie stars, and tweaked bohemians by the steady anchor of its muse: a man who, through the fond eyes of his biographer, comes off maybe as wholly, maddeningly human as he ever has — both sweet and strange, mercenary and tender-hearted.
The most impressive thing about this new Warhol biography is not its length—more than 900 pages—but the fact that art is discussed on nearly every one of them ... With each chapter corresponding to roughly a year in the artist’s life (though the first 17 are greatly condensed), [Gopnik] is able to slowly disclose the patchwork of Warhol’s diverse influences and art-world references ... Gopnik’s in-depth portrait is for the Warhol-initiated, who will gain new appreciation for the artist as the ultimate aesthetic 'sponge.'
Art, commerce, homosexual camp, and the 1960s counterculture were all blithely blenderized by one man’s genius, according to this sweeping biography of pop art master Andy Warhol ... Warhol’s greatest image was himself, and Gopnik’s fascinating narrative does full justice to the silver-wigged, pixie-ish, satirically vapid provocateur ... Gopnik’s exhaustive but stylishly written and entertaining account is Warholian in the best sense—raptly engaged, colorful, open-minded, and slyly ironic ... Warhol fans and pop art enthusiasts alike will find this an endlessly engrossing portrait.
An epic cradle-to-grave biography of the king of pop art ... the author serves up fresh details about almost every aspect of Warhol’s life in an immensely enjoyable book that blends snappy writing with careful exegeses of the artist’s influences and techniques ... Although insightful in its interpretations of Warhol’s art, this biography is sure to make waves with its easily challenged claims that Warhol revealed himself early on 'as a true rival of all the greats who had come before' and that he and Picasso may now occupy 'the top peak of Parnassus, beside Michelangelo and Rembrandt and their fellow geniuses' ... A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.