None Posted Mar 28, 2023

Several Essential Books for Every Art Library by Richard Polsky

Guest Blog Entry - Several Essential Books for Every Art Library by Richard Polsky


As the owner of an art authentication service who verifies the work of seven artists, I often rely on my extensive art reference library. Assembling it took a long time and a lot of thought. I initially bought every catalog raisonné, museum retrospective catalog, and biography on each artist who I worked with. The next order of business was to fill out the shelves with rare gallery exhibition catalogs. Once the task was completed, I soon realized that collecting books is an ongoing experience; new publications appear with some regularity. And there is always the unexpected text message from Lee Kaplan announcing he’s uncovered a gem that I didn’t know existed.

Richard Polsky Art Authentication verifies the paintings of: Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Bill Traylor. The following are some of the books I often refer to which are essential to not only understanding their work, but appreciating their lives. The good news is that the majority of them are easily attainable.


Andy Warhol

The Andy Warhol Diaries by Pat Hackett (Twelve): Compulsive reading which illuminates how Andy’s rich social life often informed his work. After finishing it, you walk away wondering how Andy had time to paint.


Holy Terror by Bob Colacello (Vintage): Mr. Colacello ran Interview magazine, giving him personal access to Andy and his Machiavellian approach to business. Colacello was not only the ultimate insider, but a polished writer.


Death and Disaster by Paul Alexander (Warner): Here’s the sordid tale of the scramble for Andy’s money in the aftermath of his death. Death and Disaster also offers a poignant portrait of Fred Hughes, Andy’s savvy business manager.


Popism by Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett (Mariner Books): Gossip-oriented coverage of Andy’s life during the 1960s (in Andy’s own words). Warhol’s candor about becoming famous is both touching and revealing.


Andy Warhol A Retrospective by Knynaston McShine (MoMA): The Museum of Modern Art mounted a full-dress Andy Warhol retrospective not long after he died; here are the glorious results.


Jean-Michel Basquiat

Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art by Phoebe Hoban (Penguin): This is by far the best biographic treatment of Jean-Michel’s short but enormously productive life. The tone of Ms. Hoban’s writing is pitch perfect.


Jean-Michel Basquiat 1981: The Studio of the Street by Jeffrey Deitch (Charta): Deitch assembled a group of interviews with some of the prime movers in the downtown New York art and music scene - all of whom knew Basquiat personally. The Studio of the Street perfectly captures the spirit of Basquiat’s seminal days in the East Village.


Basquiat by Marc Mayer (Merrell): This catalog accompanied one of Basquiat’s earliest posthumous retrospective exhibitions - which took place at the Brooklyn Museum. It presents a strong pictorial overview of his paintings with a particular emphasis on his equally superb drawings.


Keith Haring

Keith Haring Journals by Keith Haring (Penguin): Keith’s story in his own words, filled with insights and truths. You walk away thinking that not only was he a terrific artist, but perhaps an even better person.


Keith Haring by Jeffrey Deitch, Julia Gruen, and Suzanne Geiss (Rizzoli): This is a massive pink coffee table book with an in-depth overview of Keith’s diverse body of work accompanied by many candid photographs of the artist.


Keith Haring 31 Subway Drawings by Larry Warsh (Princeton University Press): A slim but important volume which illustrates the artist’s iconic “Subway Drawings” - the bedrock on which his oeuvre lies.


Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock by Kirk Varnedoe (MoMA and Tate): The late, great Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art gives us a well-curated overview of Jackson Pollock’s historic achievement. But the illustrations of his “greatest hits” are the real treat here.


Jackson Pollock: An American Saga by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith (Harper): This is a lengthy, painstakingly assembled anecdotal biography that became the basis of the excellent movie Pollock, staring Marcia Gay Harden and Ed Harris. It’s also the best of the Jackson Pollock biographies.


Pollock Painting by Hans Namuth  (Agrinde). This a book that you definitely buy for the pictures. Pollock gave Namuth full access to photograph him while he flung his skeins of paint. There’s also a short companion video by Hans Namuth of Jackson Pollock in action that can be accessed on Google.


Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Houses by Barbara Buhler Lynes and Agapita Judy Lopez (Abrams): Ms. O’Keeffe, who had two residences nestled in the rugged New Mexican landscape, found inspiration in both locations. This book’s evocative photographs emphasize the vibe of each space and ultimately makes you want to visit the “Land of Enchantment.”


Georgia O’Keeffe by Roxana Robinson (Brandeis University Press): There have been numerous biographies on Georgia O’Keeffe’s remarkable long life. All are good; Robinson’s is excellent.


Georgia O’Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné by Barbara Buhler Lynes (Yale): Most catalogues raisonné are expensive; and while this lavish two volume slipcased set has recently gone out of print, this one is still a relative bargain. For the true Georgia O’Keeffe aficionado who wants to totally immerse himself in her work.


Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein by Diane Waldman (Guggenheim Museum): Surprisingly, no one has written a biography on one of the most consistent (at the highest level) artists of the twentieth century. Diane Waldman’s lavishly illustrated coffee table book will have to do for now.


Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective by James Rondeau and Sheena Wagstaff (Yale):  A nice companion volume to Diane Waldman’s Guggenheim tome. Chock full of great illustrations.


The Drawings of Roy Lichtenstein by Bernice Rose (Museum of Modern Art): A compendium of the most overlooked aspect of Lichtenstein’s oeuvre. His drawings were small gems which provided insight into his working process.


Bill Traylor

Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor by Leslie Umberger (Princeton): If you’re going to own only one book on Bill Traylor, this is it. Traylor gets the retrospective treatment here and the results are thrilling. His work and life have become a legitimate art world myth.


Bill Traylor by Frank Maresca and Roger Ricco (Knopf). The Ricco / Maresca Gallery was an early champion of Traylor’s art and assembled the first serious book devoted to his work.


These excellent titles selected by our longtime Arcana friend and supporter come and go with some frequency at the shop. Should you have an interest in acquiring any - or all - of them, please drop us a line at and we'll let you know what we have in stock


Richard Polsky is the proprietor of Richard Polsky Art Authentication: He is also an accomplished contemporary art dealer and the author of a number of books on the art market including I Bought Andy Warhol and I Sold Andy Warhol (too soon). Richard is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.