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.