Andy Warhol Estate Accused Of Defacing Authentic Warhol Artwork To Limit The Market

from the who-has-the-right-to-what-now? dept

I recently enjoyed the first World Fair Use Day in Washington DC, put on by Public Knowledge. It was nice to see that one of the main sponsors of the event was The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. After all, if there’s a famous artist who epitomizes the value of fair use and not artificially limiting the ability of people to make and sell art, it’s Andy Warhol. Given that, it’s disappointing to hear (via Justin Levine) that the very same Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is being sued by a woman claiming that the Foundation’s Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board deface Warhol artwork owned by others by stamping them with a red “DENIED” stamp.

Now, the article linked above only gives one side of the story, so perhaps there’s more to it, but the woman claims that the Foundation purposely defaces the artwork and greatly lowers the value of it in order to create additional scarcity for the artwork which the Foundation itself owns (and sometimes sells for significant sums). Of course, that’s a pretty extraordinary claim that probably requires additional proof. The woman suing says that the Foundation requires people to sign a form with an indemnity clause which would stop those who own the works from suing the Foundation.

The article also notes that “the board’s stamp of approval is necessary for anyone in the world to sell a Warhol work,” but that’s the part that confuses me. Why? I know that, in the art world, it is important to be able to prove that a particular work is an original, so I’m guessing that’s a part of it. But I don’t see how the Foundation could totally bar a sale without the “stamp of approval” (or disapproval, as the case may be). But if it’s true that the Foundation is purposely defacing (and disparaging) legitimate works owned by others, that seems like a particularly obnoxious way to represent Warhol — though, given Warhol’s oddities and history of putting his name on the paintings of others, perhaps it’s just a modern version of a Warhol art project to insist that legitimate works are fakes.

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Comments on “Andy Warhol Estate Accused Of Defacing Authentic Warhol Artwork To Limit The Market”

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26 Comments
Anonymoussays:

Not the first time:

“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.”

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/23153

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

I went to the Warhol museum in Pittsburgh 5 years ago. It was fascinating. He has a lot more art than just the Campbell soup stuff. Every month, he would sweep the contents of his desk into a box and file it. They had some on display and they were full of interesting things: postcards, matchboxs, books, etc.

The museum was pretty much empty and I didn’t see any signs so I started taking pictures with my 0.5 megapixel camera. Eventually, a girl came up and told me I couldn’t take pictures. “Oh, I didn’t any signs.” She kind of just glared at me for a minute then walked off. I wonder if she realized the irony.

sysadmnsays:

The article also notes that “the board’s stamp of approval is necessary for anyone in the world to sell a Warhol work,” but that’s the part that confuses me. Why?

From the article, it doesn’t sound as if the board can block a sale. It’s just that the work sells for much less if not authenticated.

The average price of a Warhol work at auction was $442,000 in 2006, according to the complaint. Shaer says the works “routinely fetch even more astronomical sums,” noting that the 1963 “Green Car Crash,” a single Warhol silkscreen, sold for $71.7 million.

Because Shaer declined the board’s invitation, she says her piece has an effective market value of “zero.”

btr1701says:

Re:

From the article, it doesn’t sound as if the
board can block a sale. It’s just that the work
sells for much less if not authenticated.

Exactly. It’s probably a situation where the major art auction houses (Christie’s, Sotheby’s, etc.) require authentication from the foundation before they will allow a piece to sell in one of their auctions. No authentication means you don’t have access to the mainstream venues and buyers in the art world, which makes selling the painting at its market value very difficult.

shmengiesays:

it's meta-art!

isn’t having the warhol foundation stamp “denied” on a warhol piece exactly the sort of thing andy himself would do?

i did something similar years ago: i purchased a couple of nice prints (the mona lisa and one by rembrandt, i forget which one). i had them mounted and then i spray painted “art” on the mona lisa and “not art” on the rembrandt. of course they’re both art, but i was in my 20’s, asking questions, etc.

Anonymoussays:

If they dont like a work, the simply deny it without any reason. This baord have no first hand knowledge of Warhol’s work but through bullying tactics have created a market where only their word matters. By denying works which Warhol himself chose for the cover of his 1970 raisonne, its 1972 revised edition as well as other publications even those who marvel at the emperors new clothes will see them for the frauds they are. No matter how many millions of Warhol’s charitable funds they spend to prove that warhol was wrong, at some point people will wise up. Like Dick Cheney’s ‘never apologise, never explain’ this may work in middle america but new yorkers arent that gullible. its what happens when you have a group pf lawyers running an arts foundation, all they want to do is litigate.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/23153

http://www.myandywarhol.eu/my/my_story.asp

inflammatory language

You wouldn’t know it from reading the original article, but they’re not stamping the front of the artwork. The photo clearly shows the “DENIED” marker on the back of the canvas. (I’m not sure whether that’s a standard way to do this in the art world or not, but in any case, it’s much less severe than what the wording “deface” implies, since the “face” is usually taken to be the front.)

Otherkevinsays:

Re: inflammatory language

You wouldn’t know it from reading the original article, but they’re not stamping the front of the artwork. The photo clearly shows the “DENIED” marker on the back of the canvas. (I’m not sure whether that’s a standard way to do this in the art world or not, but in any case, it’s much less severe than what the wording “deface” implies, since the “face” is usually taken to be the front.)

So perhaps deface isn’t the correct word, but the gist of it is that by having the “Denied” stamp on it the work is seriously devalued. Not because it is “defaced” in the traditional sense, but in the sense that it has been “officially” invalidated as an authentic Warhol piece. Even if it is an actual Warhol piece, the fact that the Warhol Foundation (who has an economic interest in invalidating the authenticity of any Warhol piece that they don’t already own) has claimed that it’s not has degraded the value.

Anonymoussays:

http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/The-art-market-explained-4337

As the dollar continues to depreciate, a crude illustration of money becomes a highly prized representation of value. Warhol?s 200 One Dollar Bills goes up in price by tens of millions of dollars. Two hundred actual one dollars bills, meanwhile, become more and more worthless?just like the excellent art that $200, $2,000 or $20,000 can still purchase. Take that to the bank.

a-dubsays:

Because Shaer declined the board’s invitation, she says her >piece has an effective market value of “zero.”

Any art expert would be able to determine if a Warhol is fake or not. A real warhol would still sell very easily and for market price, even without the approval. If you think a stamp of approval is going to stop a Warhol collector from buying, then gimme some of what you’re smoking.

James Carrollsays:

Basic 101

An authentication board is an absolute necessity in this day and age of fakeroos. Just go on eBay and buy yourself all the ‘signed’ Warhols that you want. If you didn’t have an authentication board there would virtually be no way of discerning the reals from the fakes.
If one is not confident that their recently purchased Warhol is not real then don’t submit it. Sell it as is with your own documentation. If one is fuzzy about the provenance and you still want to take the chance submit but you have to agree to the consequences of having it stamped on the back. I see nothing wrong with that.
Besides 99% of the existing real Warhols have been well documented. We’re only talking about an in-between zone of a very few that may have slipped thru the cracks that were not. Mix that with the thousands of fakes that are floating around and then you have a lot of people screaming sour grapes.

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