The question is being played out in the media and soon in court in a new form, “What is an authentic Andy Warhol work?”
According to Arthur Danto, Andy Warhol’s work questioned what is art: “What is the difference between two things, exactly alike, one of which is art and one of which is not?”
While one of Warhol’s Brillo Boxes is worth a fortune, a similar regular box that contains Brillo shipped to stores becomes trash that is hopefully recycled.
But now the question has moved one step further to include Warhol’s own work, often produced under his direction by others in his Factory. What makes an authentic Warhol different from one he merely consented to issue? More importantly, is there really a difference?
Warhol would have loved the controversy, since he said, “Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.” The dispute is getting a lot of inches! Tate Modern’s Nicholas Serota, wealthy art dealer Anthony d’Offay, Sussex businessman and underwater explorer David Mearns, and American film producer Joe Simon have all had their works of the Andy Warhol portrait denied by the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc, a part of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, headed up by Joel Wachs. Although at present magazine publisher Richard Ekstract is not reported as a part of the class action lawsuit headed up by Joe Simon against the authentication board, his red self portrait of Warhol is also denied.
No one disputes that Andy Warhol himself had the photo taken in an inexpensive photo booth, and then turned into an acetate transparency for silk-screening. The controversy swirls around the use of the acetate to create the second group of red portraits. It seems that Andy Warhol had an associate bring the acetate to an outside firm which ran the red portraits. It is said that he later approved them, but apparently the authentication board lacks the solid proof it wants for that, although there is fairly solid proof as Warhol personally signed one copy to his longtime business partner, the Zurich-based art dealer Bruno Bischofberger (“To Bruno B Andy Warhol 1969”). Andy Warhol also signed a copy of Rainer Crone’s 1970 catalogue raisonné of Warhol’s work. Warhol worked on this catalogue with Crone, plus an image of Bischofberger’s signed portrait appears both on the cover and inside of it. As an artist, who like Warhol is the founder of a new art theory (Post Conceptual Art’s UnGraven Image – using symbols for strokes), this conflict has major implications and lessons that I and all artists today need to learn.
To begin with, we need to carefully keep provenance and catalog our own works, or oversee this. While printing plates can be destroyed, digital images are fairly easy to reproduce and artists like myself who create original digital prints need to be especially careful to keep records. Prominent artists need to set up the foundations and boards that will handle their works with checks and balances, to prevent abuses by those who hold power. There is a lot of money and art world power. Money and power can sorely tempt mere non-artist mortals who have not learned that standing in front of a canvas is standing in front of a canvas, whether in a mansion or a converted garage – what matters is light, heat or air-conditioning. Collectors, museums and dealers have the right to question authorities. While an artwork that is the undisputed and well known work of an artist is the safest investment, does the opinion of one expert or body of experts really make a work worth more less when equally educated authorities hold a different opinion? For a presentation video that is almost completed I created Double Un – Denied Andy Warhol digitally using the basic portrait in much the same way Andy Warhol used his acetates. It is a playful homage to Andy Warhol who is one of the artists whose work has directly inspired my work and Post Conceptual Art theory. [See: Andy Warhol is a Grandfather to Post Conceptual Art] This artwork will be available soon as an original digital print/painting (I will be painting on each one also) through a dealers soon. So, another question to ask is. “When does an art authority cease to be recognized and taken seriously by collectors, museums, and dealers – who really decides?” If an authority claimed my work is fake, but I, as the artist claimed it as my work, which would be true?The answer seems obvious. Let me toss in Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 work Fountain. Was Duchamp present when his Fountain was created? Yet, we attribute it to him.
When collectors, museums and dealers accept Fountain as a great work of art, why would they give weight to the denied claim of the authentication board? At least museum curators and dealers should be able to distinguish whether the emperor is wearing any clothes, whatever he claims.
The reports, including an excellent one by Richard Dorment in the New York Review of Books , are saying that stamping a work “Denied” basically renders it unsaleable in our art market. As an artist, I personally feel this relates to Warhol’s groundbreaking work painting dollar bills and questioning value and the link between art and money. It is a question that I intended to also pursue with my own work – but with new slants. I never anticipate the current brouhaha over Andy Warhol’s own work, which clearly by several accounts he at least appropriated as his own. But, since my art, and the theory I am founding owes so much to his work, and although I am still emerging, I have a responsibility based on what I am doing and the recognition that historically must follow.
So I am about to take another revolutionary stand. Humor me for a moment as I deeply need to thank the Warhol Foundation itself for its wonderful philanthropic work, including for the grants and help it continues to offer to artists and not for profit groups, art writers and, frankly the world because art can change lives. In no way would I take a stand other than for the Warhol Foundation itself, which basically I support. Yet the questions exist that need to be addressed in relation to these Warhol portraits and art works in general. Who decides if something is a work of great art?
This question is at the heart of the issue as the red portraits will be considered great art if they are by Andy Warhol and , well, perhaps not really art if they are not. An expert is only an expert if people agree on his/her expertise and adhering to the expert’s opinions. It is not only the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board that is deciding that the red Warhol portraits are not actual Warhols – it is also anyone, including art collectors, advisers, curators, museums, and dealers who accept and act upon their decision. What if collectors, dealers, museums, curators ignore the stamps of denied and findings of the board? Or any art expert? Who really decides if the Emperor is wearing any clothes for you? Is there a fall domino effect that will befall other art professionals who accept the strange possibility that the authentication board is correct and that a self portrait that was signed by an artist and sent to a close friend, then included in a catalogue raisonné that was approved and also signed by the artist is not actually to be considered the work of the artist? Is discrediting a work of art accomplished simply by stamping “denied” on the verso? Why does this have to be?
To mitigate, even turn the tables on the dreaded and seemingly powerful “Denied” stamp, I am “stamping” the word: DENIED on the back of ever single authentic red Andy Warhol stand alone portrait I create and sign. This includes the Double Un – Denied Andy Warhol along with a small edition of Holiday cards I am privately sending. Although I am a Post Conceptual artist, I see the lettered stamp on the verso as a kind of Word Art that somehow adds conceptually to the image and work on the front side. On November 11, 2009 in a second kind of article dubbed ‘What Is an Andy Warhol?’: An Exchange in the New York Review of Books In an answer to Joel Wachs ‘s comments in letters to the Editor Richard Dorment answers Joel Wachs’ comments in the Letters to the Editor concerning the original article linked above.
Richard Dorment writes,” Readers should not be fooled by Mr. Wachs’s bluster. His complaints are a diversionary tactic intended to shift attention away from the sublime idiocy of his board’s closing sentence in its letter: ‘It is the opinion of the authentication board that said work is NOT the work of Andy Warhol, but that said work was signed, dedicated, and dated by him.’ Not the work of Andy Warhol but signed, dedicated and dated by him?
What would Marcel Marcel Duchamp say?
UPDATE: Wednesday, January 5, 2010– This blog article and @judyrey are honored with 15 MINUTES OF FAME via @WarholWednesday on Twitter. For the next week this article is linked and featured on @WarholWednesday’s Twitter Profile page and messages Tweeted about this award!
UPDATE: November 10. 2010 – According to stories carried in the major press the case also included allegations by Joe Simon-Whelan claiming that the Warhol Foundation illegally restrained trade and rigged prices, “…engaged in any conspiracy, anti competitive acts, or any other fraudulent or illegal conduct”. Huh?!This is going way overboard as all that was at issue was the authenticity of one artwork, which is a print in a series. These unsubstantiated claims are, according to U.S. District Judge Andrew Peck, “Frivolous allegations.” This information was not put forth in the press releases and information that seemed to focus on the authenticity of one work of art! Fortunately the case was dismissed as an agreement was reached between the parties, wherein Simon-Whelan received nothing and the Warhol Foundation decided not to try to recover legal costs as the plaintiff lacks assets.
“Not only did we not pay him any money, but he admitted on the record in court that there was no basis for his allegations, and the court agreed,” said Nicholas Gravante, an attorney for the foundation.
I am appalled at the allegations and believe that the term “frivolous” may be legally correct, but falls as short as a grain of sand used to describe a mountain, when it comes to these false allegations about the Warhol Foundation. While I continue to hold that the artwork is an authentic Warhol – for the sake of the artist and other collector’s—certainly not Joe Simon-Whelan, given these unsupported, and clearly to me false allegations about the Warhol Foundation, I support the current dismissal of the case.
The above basic black and white Scripture Portrait, Psalm 19 (Andy Warhol ) seen here was used for over three weeks by Interview Magazine as their avatar on twitter and to represent their Twitter presence on Facebook. Interview Magazine assumed it was by Warhol himself! However, the work is actually created with using hand drawn & painted tiny symbols as strokes. The symbols used are the original letters of Psalm 19. Several models (art & photos) inspired this work including the Denied Red Portrait pictured above. My work captures that expression.
If we ask the question, “What American artist and founder of a revolutionary art theory created an authentic red portrait of Andy Warhol?” Currently, the only correct answer to that question would be Judy Rey Wasserman, according to the actions of the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc. Although it is possibly 15 minutes of fame I could happily bask in, there’s deeply something amiss in the answer not also including Andy Warhol, his name first , especially since my work is an homage to his.
At the top of this article is my current stamp is shown. It is handmade from Styrofoam, which can be cut and pushed out , sort of like a piece of lino, only the Styrofoam is far more fragile making rigid lines and perfection impossible. The fragility of the Styrofoam refers to the fragility of truth and artist’s connection to a work, both physically as it passes to a collector and now Warhol’s connection to his red portraits.
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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art.
Post Conceptual UnGraven Image Art theory is based at the intersection of ancient spiritual wisdom and cutting-edge contemporary science. It shows us a new and enhanced spiritual and science-based way to see the world. It is a life changing vision that can even become an actual new way of seeing that is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Can this be true? See for yourself.
Check out the Fine Art Limited Editions and God’s Word open edition prints, books, and printables that are currently available to you through Judy Rey’s Art of Seeing The Divine Shop. You don’t have to buy to avail yourself of the art and inspiration available there. However, if you select to collect investment quality archival art, or decorate your home with images created with strokes that are original letters from Bible texts, or buy a gift for someone special, there is a secure shopping cart that accepts most credit cards so your purchase is easy to accomplish. https://artofseeingthedivine.com.