You remember the Andy Warhol “Giant” Size book that Phaidon published in 2006? An extraordinary and utterly covetable book, it sells for $125 full-price (though Amazon have sellers offering at less than $75), weighs in at more than seventeen pounds, and measures more than seventeen inches by thirteen. In other words, although it’s a real trophy, it is actually almost impossible to read, unless you lay it down on the floor or take it to bed. Of course, there is something archly Warholian about all that, but now some marketing genius at Phaidon has had the simplest but most effective of ideas: to publish a new Large Format version. Except that, in this case Large Format actually means smaller. Full price it’s $49.95, and the pages are less than twelve inches by nine. It’s still a monster by most people’s standards, but at least you can look at it properly without having to rearrange the furniture. And I have to say, it really repays looking at it properly.
Of course nowadays we imagine we see Warhol-isms everywhere, but this book really does seem to embody Warhol’s spirit. Like a super-edition of a fan magazine, it is jam-packed with pictures familiar and unfamiliar, adopts an easily comprehensible chronological format, and doesn’t overdo the verbiage. In fact, other than Dave Hickey’s four-page introduction, there isn’t a single bit of prose here longer than one side. On the other hand, the pages are strewn with Warhol’s aphorisms, redolent of the throwaway poetic wisdom that made him seem so perplexing during his lifetime, but which makes him appear so prophetic now. “I don’t really believe in love. I sort of believe in liking,” (he tells us alongside reproductions of his beautiful gold-leafed portraits of boys from the 1950s); “I’m the type who’d like to sit home and watch every party that I’m invited to on a monitor in my bedroom,” (he says on a page where he’s photographed on his bed with a television and a magazine); “I don’t think less is more. More is better. Big paintings cost more than little paintings, and magazines pay by the word,” he opines above a double-page spread of a Large Flowers screen painting from 1964-65. And then, just as you think you’re getting the hang of this, he reveals, “I’m not more intelligent than I appear,” on a page of photographs of him walking on sidewalks littered with wind-blown newspapers.
I probably first became aware of Andy Warhol when I was in Grammar School in England in about 1968, and first tried saying something sensible about him to my art history students in 1977. Then I ran into him repeatedly when I lived here between 1979 and 1982, and – like an awful lot of other people, I’m ashamed to admit – regarded him as pretty much a spent force in the years before his death in 1987. But Andy Warhol “Giant” Size: Large Format serves as a further reminder that Andy Warhol had something that really great artists achieve: he made work that, no matter how unimportant or incomprehensible it seemed at the time and place of its making, now seems to speak for those times and that place more eloquently than almost anything else.
I thoroughly recommend this one. You can buy it here: Andy Warhol ”Giant” Size, Large Format
[I’m going to be running a lot more book reviews here on A Sky filled with Shooting Stars, though they won’t always appear as independent posts. Look out for them at the top of the left sidebar, where I’ve also put the link to this one.]