A Signed, Dated & Dedicated Andy Warhol Painting, Authentic Or Not?


The Andy Warhol Article by Richard Dorment in The New York Review of Books is a must read for anyone who owns an Andy Warhol. 

Mr. Dorment discusses the class action lawsuit filed by Joe Simon-Whelan and other yet-to-be-named plaintiffs against the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., and the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc., which is the committee set up eight years after Warhol passed away to determine Authenticity of purported Art by Andy Warhol.

The Joe Simon-Whelan case revolves around a "series of ten identical silk-screened self-portraits from 1965 (Red Self Portraits), one of which is owned by the plaintiff and all of which the authentication board has declared are not by Warhol."

"The Red Self Portraits are among Warhol's best-known works, endlessly reproduced in books about the artist and on exhibition posters." 

"As usual in making a silk screen, Warhol started by having the photo transferred to acetate plates. From these acetates he made two series of self-portraits. The first, which he began in the spring of 1964, consists of eleven self-portraits printed on linen, with several different background colors. These the authentication board considers genuine."

"The following year, a second series was printed from the same acetates on cotton, each with the same red background. The board denies the authenticity of this second series because Warhol was not present when they were printed."

"What happened is that Warhol gave the acetates to the publisher Richard Ekstract in exchange for the use of the expensive Norelco video equipment that Ekstract had loaned him to make his first, groundbreaking videos."

"Morrisey further says that Warhol spoke to the printer over the phone to give him specific, detailed instructions regarding the colors he wanted the printer to use. Both Warhol and Morrissey communicated with the printer, but Morrissey is clear that neither was present during the silk-screening process. After the printing, Ekstract returned the acetates to Warhol."

"The ten self-portraits in the second series were exhibited at a party Ekstract gave on September 29, 1965, both to celebrate the premiere of Warhol's first video with Edie Sedgwick and to launch Ekstract's magazine, Tape Recording. When the party was over, Warhol gave the self-portraits as a form of payment to Ekstract, who in turn took one for himself, gave two to the printer, and presented the rest to the people who had helped with the videotaping."

"So far, it might be possible to argue that whatever Warhol's working practice was later in his career, the second series of self-portraits is not authentic because he was not present when they were printed."

"This argument is undermined by one overwhelming fact: one picture in the series, now owned by the London collector Anthony d'Offay, is signed and dated by Warhol, and dedicated in his own handwriting to his longtime business partner, the Zurich-based art dealer Bruno Bischofberger ("To Bruno B Andy Warhol 1969"). Since the Renaissance, a signature is the way artists such as Mantegna and Titian acknowledge the authenticity of their work."

"When a work is deemed not to be by Warhol, it is mutilated by stamping it in ink on the reverse with the word "DENIED"—thereby rendering the picture unsaleable even if the board later changes its mind. Although a lawyer for the board has said that no one forces applicants to submit works for authentication, no auction house or dealer will handle a work whose authenticity the board has questioned. A painting stamped DENIED is worthless.'

"The single most important thing you can say about a work of art is that it is real, that the artist to whom it is attributed made it. Until you are certain that a work of art is authentic, it is impossible to say much else that is meaningful about it. The separation of the real from the fake is the cornerstone on which our understanding of any artist's work is based."

"The very nature of the silk-screening process makes Warhol a particularly easy artist to fake because there is virtually no difference between the appearance of a silk screen that Andy Warhol made with his own hands and one that an assistant might have run off after-hours. From early on, Warhol signed some works and used a stamp of his signature on others—but sometimes he didn't sign a work at all."

"The task of an authentication board for Warhol's works is therefore not easy. But decisions like the one about the "Bruno B Self Portrait" at best raise doubts about this board's competence and at worst about its integrity. For with assets in the region of $500 million worth of art, the Andy Warhol Foundation funds its charitable activities by selling the works it owns."

"This has left it open to the accusation that it is in the foundation's financial interest to control the market in Warhols. Simon-Whelan's lawsuit alleges that the board routinely denies the authenticity of works by Warhol in order to restrict the number of Warhols on the market and thereby to increase the value of its holdings."

Rainer Crone author of Andy Warhol’s 1970 catalogue raisonnĂ© and a Professor of Art History at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, sets the record straight "about the confusing and dubious incident caused by the Andy Warhol Authentication Board, Inc., and its denial of the painting the Red Self Portrait, dedicated to Bruno B, which Warhol and I chose together for the cover of his first major scholarly book publication with the catalogue raisonnĂ© in 1970, in which it was listed as entry #169."  

Mr. Crone establishes, that in the Crone Catalogue, the Painting "was dated 1964, the year Warhol first used the image, but the Red Self Portrait inscribed “to Bruno B” was actually created in 1965. This appalling decision certainly does not demonstrate any scholarly rigor on the part of the Andy Warhol Authentication Board."

Anthony D'Offay donated the dedicated Andy Warhol Painting to the Tate Modern, but this generous gift is on hold pending resolution of the class action case.

No comments :