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Moderna Museet’s Warhol Brillo Boxes Are Fake

andy warhol fake brillo box

Six wooden Brillo boxes in the collection of a Swedish museum are fakes that were made in 1990, three years after Warhol died, the New York Times reported (via the Associated Press) on Saturday. The Moderna Museet in Stockholm said it had investigated the six Brillo boxes, donated in 1995 by its former director, Pontus Hultén, after a Swedish newspaper claimed that they were copies. In a letter to the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board in New York, the museum director, Lars Nittve, confirmed the claims. “These boxes are not authorized by the artist and should be removed from the official list of Andy Warhol Brillo boxes,” Nittve wrote. The Swedish paper Expressen reported in June that Hultén, who was director of the museum in the 1960s and the Pompidou Center in Paris in the 1970s and 1980s, had Swedish carpenters build 105 copies of the box for an exhibition in Russia in 1990. Expressen claimed that Hultén, who died last year, sold a number of the copies with certificates falsely stating that they were made for a Warhol exhibition in Stockholm in 1968. Be Warned!


November 29, 2007 - Posted by | Artists, raw art gallery, Uncategorized | , ,


  1. Andy Warhol Controvery
    The following information is included in the $20 million dollar plus $100 million damages lawsuit filed by filmmaker Joe Simon. .

    What has been omitted from the press articles, which are growing by the minute, is the fact that both the co-curator for the museum show. Olle Granath, a curator at the Museem Modern in Sweden , and Paul Morrissey publicly stated that the sculptures were not real and yet this information was ignored by the warhol authentication board and foundation. The boxes were submitted to the board for the first time in 1995, while Lord Palumbo was director of the foundation. Lord Palumbo and others close to the board own several of these boxes which is acknowledged in the warhol catalogue raisonne part 2, (page 81) These boxes were estimated by Christies at $150-$200,000 each, giving the 105 an approx value of $21,000,000.
    The point being that the board and foundation refuse to acknowledge information by those closest to Warhol and who were actually there, but rely on information given to them by dealers while those closest to them seem to profit. This is the crux of the class action lawsuit launched by Joe Simon. The board refuse to acknowledge the testimony of Paul Morrissey( warhol’s manager and filmmaker who recently sold the Montauk home he shared with Warhol for approx $30 million dollars and others who were close to the artist, preferring to acknowledge the testimony of favored dealers who stand to profit.

    A source close to Warhol sent this comment: The news media has been pussy-footing
    for too long handling art corruption with kid gloves. The time is now
    for the media to take off the gloves and reveal the corruption & lies
    which lurk beneath the veneer & vanity of what passes off as “art.”
    Joe Simon has been steadfast & relentless in his pursuit for
    justice and I know he will be even more relentless as time goes on.

    Comment by chris hampton | November 30, 2007 | Reply

  2. http://www.myandywarhol.com

    A rather novel way of raising awareness and fighting funds to battle a massive corporation.
    This website is about Joe Simon’s $120 million dollar battle with the Warhol foundation, their dealer Vincent Fremont and its arm the mysterious and evasive Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board Inc.
    Instead of buying a house, Joe Simon bought a 1960’s Warhol. Signed, authenticated by the artist’s estate and foundation before being defaced by a group without first hand knowledge of Warhol or his working methods. If authentication is so unstable, who is going to invest in art?
    You make up your own mind, go into the site, read the evidence which has been accumulated, weigh the testimony of Warhol’s friends, colleagues and studio assistants who were there in the early days and who have a thorough knowledge of Warhol’s working methods in general and this portrait in particular.

    Comment by fred weinberg | October 24, 2008 | Reply

  3. What Andy Warhol Really Did

    By Rainer Crone
    In response to What Is an Andy Warhol? (October 22, 2009)

    To the Editors:

    Richard Dorment’s admirably and concisely written analysis of Warhol’s art and his artistic and conceptual techniques [NYR, October 22, 2009] was much more brilliant and got closer to the essence of Warhol’s radical reinvention of image-making than anything I have read in many years.

    However, I was shocked and appalled to learn how the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts (est. 1987) and the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc. (est. 1995) are operating blatantly for their own self-interested purposes, ignoring by doing so Warhol’s artistic innovations, which are unique in the history of Western art since the Renaissance.

    As the author of Warhol’s catalogue raisonné and a Professor of Art History at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich—previously I taught at Yale University; the University of California, Berkeley; Columbia University; and New York University—I have followed in detail the activities of the two institutions concerned with Warhol’s work. I have known several members of the Warhol authentication board, including Professor Robert Rosenblum, David Whitney, and others since its foundation in May 1995.

    From 1968 on, I worked closely with Andy Warhol. Under his supervision, I had access to his archives and was able to make a complete inventory of his work in his studio on Union Square. I collaborated with him until his death in February 1987.

    Between June 1968 and July 1970, as a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Hamburg, in my mid-twenties, I produced and wrote the very first catalogue raisonné of his paintings, films, and works on paper, published in 1970 by Hatje Verlag, Stuttgart (in German); Praeger, New York; and Thames & Hudson, London. My original research was funded by a generous two-year doctoral grant from the German government and intentionally did not include any commercial backing or financial support from any gallery or individuals (like collectors, art advisers, etc.).

    In January 1970, before the publication of my catalogue raisonné, Warhol and I met in his Factory on Union Square to discuss which image should be used for the cover of the raisonné of his work. To demonstrate his unique reproduction technique using silk screens, Warhol showed me two paintings, identical in color and outline, of the same image, from the series Red Self Portrait. He suggested that we use one of these two paintings for the cover to illustrate his repetitive and multiple reproductions of the same image—in this case, his self-portrait. We chose the Red Self Portrait, which had been recently acquired by Warhol’s Swiss dealer and Interview magazine co-owner Bruno Bischofberger and signed and dedicated to “Bruno B.” My 1970 catalog, as well as the revised editions of 1972 (Milan: Mazotta Editore), which included an additional 406 works approved by Warhol, and 1976 (Berlin: Wasmuth), listed this Red Self Portrait as entry #169, but the work was omitted from the Zurich-based gallery Ammann’s 2004 catalogue raisonné (without any notification or query to me)—as if this painting never existed or had been destroyed.

    This painting was a perfect example of Warhol’s technique of making multiple silk screens of the same image (for different colors, etc.) and was produced using the more “hands off” approach he continued with in the 1970s and 1980s. Since he often conveyed the artistic design by telephoning details to the silk screen factory, it is appropriate to compare this approach to the historically first “art by telephone” technique, developed in 1922 by the eminent Bauhaus artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, with whom Warhol was familiar through his studies at Carnegie Tech. (See my book The Pictorial Oeuvre of Andy Warhol, a revised catalogue raisonné with about 350 additional entries, that served in 1974 as my Ph.D. thesis and was published by Wasmuth in 1976.)

    The artist had chosen at that time the unique and more modern production technique of silk screen over the traditional hand-painted ones; this new technique was a result of Warhol’s new concept of art-making and his rejection of the centuries-old theory of the artist as auteur, the unique artistic originator.

    ow aware the artist was of the theoretical as well as philosophical implications of his mechanical technique of art-making, using silk screening and other simple reproduction processes (rubber stamp, “blotted line”), became evident in the single published interview Warhol gave that, so far as I know, deserves to be classified as accurate:

    “…No one would know whether my picture was mine or somebody else’s.”
    “It would turn art history upside down?”
    This concept, arrived at by Warhol in 1962—following progressive experimentation in his commercial art work of the early 1950s with rubber stamp and mono print techniques—can be declared as one of Warhol’s most significant and important contributions to Western art. Intentional and purposefully conceived, it involves a progressive sequence of mechanical image creations: from hand painting to mono prints, lino cuts, rubber stamps, stencils, single and multiple silk screens in the years 1963-1964.

    This use of multiple silk screens began in 1962 with the silk screen painting Baseball and continued into 1965; it demonstrated Warhol’s mechanical process, in which the artist’s hand was removed from the execution of the work. This approach can be read as Warhol’s understanding of Duchamp’s way and method of presenting art works. Warhol’s interest lies in conceptual properties and production methods, not in the actual act of making the painting. His unique production method was in the end a fusion of photography and painting.

    From 1974 to 1976 I collaborated with Andy Warhol on another book on his drawings and works on paper from 1947 to 1976, that was published in 1976 by Hatje Cantz, Stuttgart, and served as a catalog for a retrospective exhibition of Warhol’s early works on paper traveling through Western Europe.

    Ever since I published the 1970 catalog in close cooperation with Warhol, I have been guided by the idea that a catalogue raisonné should be produced in close consultation with the artist. This principle, which I followed scrupulously as a young art historian, was perfectly defined by Michael Findlay in a book published in 2004:

    The production of a catalogue raisonné of a living artist’s work has become a venture of a major magnitude as it has been realized in the last four decades that such a project, if conducted not by an interest-conflicted party, like a commercial gallery (owning works by the artist at hand) or the Estate not governed by a scholar, but instead by an absolutely independent scholar-historian with a profound knowledge of the artist’s work and the arts of the past century, has merits far beyond one’s immediate imagination and benefits not only the fair and balanced estimates in the market, with the galleries, auction houses and the like, but also the more detached institutions of exhibitions, museums and collectors.
    Beyond these secondary benefits such an enterprise with carefully, systematically conducted research allows the artist himself to review his genealogy of stylistic developments from the very early beginnings up to the present day. A published catalogue raisonné may assume a regulatory function in the artist’s relationship to the gallerist, the auction houses and the collector. In the end, the catalogue raisonné represents a public consciousness of an individual’s oeuvre in a detached non-promoting manner and allows a fair and reasoned comparison with the ever increasing and globalized art production of our days. It also guarantees and fortifies in a much fairer way the parameters of intellectual property.[2]
    While researching the 1970 catalogue raisonné, I inspected the original records and personally consulted individual collections belonging to galleries and collectors suggested by Warhol. These included the Leo Castelli Gallery, which exclusively represented the artist worldwide and in New York City after 1964, and the Ileana Sonnabend Gallery (run by Castelli’s former wife) in Paris. Other galleries and collectors (such as Elena Ward of the Stable Gallery, Emile de Antonio, et al.) are listed in my book, Andy Warhol (1970). They offered records concerning Warhol’s works that I could draw on for my books. This information was approved by Andy Warhol before publication.

    ndeed, Warhol’s technique of mechanical reproduction is one of the most important advancements in artistic techniques of the entire twentieth century, comparable to the invention of the mimetic painting style with its central perspective by artists of the Renaissance in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. And this achievement gives him—until this day—an exceptional position in modern art, marked by the uninterrupted inflation of prices for his paintings in the commercial market. In consequence, it is, of course, crucial to acknowledge Warhol’s unique contribution to the development of contemporary art and filmmaking—the rejection of authorship as an essential feature of authenticity and originality.

    Subsequently, Warhol and I had a debate over two weeks on the merits and importance of his early hand-painted works on canvas (1960 to 1962), which the artist had hidden away in his attic and nobody had seen before I discovered a tiny photograph of one of them in a fashion magazine. Finally, one day, Warhol came with Polaroid photographs that he had taken of these paintings in his attic and handed them over to me for publication in my catalogue raisonné.

    Warhol expressed his wish to have these photographs of his so-called “early works” published in my book, to contrast with the later, more mechanically produced, silk-screened works he created after 1962. No photographic documentation existed of the “early” paintings until I published them, with Warhol’s authorization. All such details, included in the catalog at his request, were significant to Warhol, since he intended to clarify the evolution of his artistic position and his avant-garde concept of questioning the six-hundred-year-old tradition (since Giotto) of the imperative notion of authorship.

    As a scholar of art and film history, I believe that my close and exclusive cooperation with Warhol gives me the authority and the right to make official and public statements about the authenticity of the artist’s conceptual intentions and his technique of art-making and—last but not least, his important avant-garde films as cinéma d’auteur, produced between 1963 and 1968 (before the almost fatal shooting accident in his studio).

    In 1987, Rizzoli published A Picture Show by the Artist, the last project I collaborated with Warhol on before his untimely death in February of that year. Not only had Warhol granted me the copyright for the images used in the 1970 raisonné and its revised 1972 version, but for all of the books which we worked on together.

    inally, I should make a personal statement about the confusing and dubious incident caused by the Andy Warhol Authentication Board, Inc.: 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 raisonné in 1970, in which it was listed as entry #169. (In my catalog it 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.

    Today one of the two paintings with this title listed in my catalogue raisonné, the Red Self Portrait, was intended to be a gift to the Tate Modern in London, but is not yet included in the museum’s collection. Irritating—how history can be distorted by pure and plain commercial interests! I had both of those paintings in my hands in early 1970: this painting, which Warhol signed and dedicated to Bruno B, and a second Red Self Portrait from the same series.

    When, in 1986, Warhol came to London for his show at Anthony d’Offay’s gallery, he signed in d’Offay’s presence one copy of my 1970 book in two places: one signature was across the dust jacket, which reproduces the “Bruno B” Red Self Portrait eight times. The other was on the book’s half-title page. It is important to realize that Warhol and myself—as I described above—together chose the “Bruno B” Red Self Portrait for the cover of the book. Warhol’s signature across the “Bruno B” image on the dust jacket gives further unequivocal evidence that Warhol still in 1986 not only was authenticating the work itself, but remained proud of the painting, as well as of my early catalogue raisonné (then sixteen years in print), which had proved so many times before to be a very reliable source.

    It is hard to believe that Warhol would have signed my book and the image of the “Bruno B” Red Self Portrait if there had been the slightest doubt in his mind that it was not “his work.” The combination of the dedication on the back of the painting with the choice of that image for the cover of the catalogue raisonné, together with his endorsement sixteen years later of the image by signing across it, leave no room whatever for any doubt as to the authenticity of the work and the artist’s intention.

    To deny a painting chosen by the artist for the cover of his first scholarly publication when that work is signed and inscribed to the artist’s longtime dealer is an act of folly and gross misjudgment. Art scholarship does not consist of the theories constructed after the artist’s death by those who never knew him. Its bedrock is the body of work that the artist authenticated—beyond a shadow of doubt—in his lifetime.

    Rainer Crone
    University Professor of Art History
    Ludwig Maximilian University
    Munich and New York

    [1]Gene Swenson’s interview with Warhol, “What is Pop Art?,” Artnews, November 1963.

    [2]Michael Findlay, “The Catalogue raisonné” in The Expert versus the Object: Judging Fakes and False Attributions in the Visual Arts, edited by Ronald D. Spencer, Oxford University Press, 2004.

    New York Review of books

    Comment by jane | March 5, 2010 | Reply

  4. Volume 56, Number 16 · October 22, 2009
    What Is an Andy Warhol?

    By Richard Dorment

    I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon)
    by Richard Polsky
    Other Press, 268 pp., $23.95

    Andy Warhol
    by Arthur C. Danto
    Yale University Press, 162 pp., $24.00
    Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol
    by Tony Scherman and David Dalton
    Harper, 528 pp., $40.00 (to be published November 1)

    Joe Simon et al. v. the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., et al.
    Joe Simon, Individually and On Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs v. the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., the Estate of Andy Warhol, Vincent Fremont, Individually and as Successor Executor for the Estate of Andy Warhol, Vincent Fremont Enterprises, the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc., John Does 1-20, Jane Does 1-10, and Richard Roes 1-10, Defendants, United States District Court, Southern District of New York

    In his entertaining memoir Younger Brother, Younger Son (1997), Colin Clark, a son of the art historian Kenneth Clark, recounts a story from his time working as a production assistant on the film The Prince and the Showgirl. To explain why Marilyn Monroe came across far more vividly on screen than her classically trained costar Laurence Olivier, Clark observed that, in front of the cameras, she knew how to speak a language an actor trained for the stage simply could not understand. To Olivier’s fury and frustration, the less the Hollywood goddess appeared to act, the more she lit up the screen. “Some years later,” Clark continues,

    I experienced a similar situation when I took my father to the studio of the Pop artist Andy Warhol in New York. My father was an art historian of the old school, used to the canvasses of Rembrandt and Titian. He simply could not conceive that Andy’s silk-screened Brillo boxes were serious art.
    Just as Monroe understood that you don’t have to act for the camera in the way the stage-trained Olivier defined acting, so Warhol realized that you don’t need to make art for an audience brought up on film and television in the way Kenneth Clark defined art. Actress and artist grasped that in the modern world, presentation counts for more than substance. The less you do, the greater may be the impact.

    What defeated Kenneth Clark about Warhol’s paintings was not only their banal subject matter but also the means he used to make them. Before it is anything else, Warhol’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe is a silk screen, a simple reproductive technique in which the artist or craftsman stencils a design onto an acetate plate and then fits the plate into a meshed screen. When ink or paint is forced through the mesh, the design is transferred onto fabric or paper.[1]

    Late in 1962 Warhol started to transfer silk-screen images onto canvas to make paintings. Other American artists, notably Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, were already painting images they found in comic strips and on billboards. It was not, therefore, Warhol’s subject matter that constituted the significant breakthrough in his early work but his decision to make fine art using a technique primarily associated with printmaking and with cheap commercial products such as T-shirts and greeting cards. Warhol’s friend Henry Geldzahler, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, recognized that the artist’s two great innovations were “to bring commercial art into fine art” and “to take printing techniques into painting. Andy’s prints and paintings are exactly the same thing. No one had ever done that before. It was an amazing thing to do.”

    After his early experiments painting cartoon characters and Coca-Cola bottles in the loose, drippy style of the Abstract Expressionists, Warhol liked the grainy, slightly out-of-register images produced by a silk screen because, he said, “I wanted something…that gave more of an assembly-line effect.” Warhol’s new paintings didn’t look as though they were painted by hand; they looked like mechanically reproduced photos in cheap tabloid newspapers.

    A silk-screened image is flat, and without depth or volume. This perfectly suited Warhol because in painting Marilyn Monroe he wasn’t painting a woman of flesh, blood, and psychological complexity but a publicity photograph of a commodity created in a Hollywood studio. As Colin Clark’s anecdote suggests, you can’t look at Warhol’s Marilyn in the same way that you look at a painting by Rembrandt or Titian because Warhol isn’t interested in any of the things those artists were–the representation of material reality, the exploration of character, or the creation of pictorial illusion.

    Warhol asked different questions about art. How does it differ from any other commodity? What value do we place on originality, invention, rarity, and the uniqueness of the art object? To do this he revisited long-neglected artistic genres such as history painting in his disaster series, still life in his soup cans and Brillo boxes, and the society portrait in Ethel Scull Thirty-Six Times. Though Warhol isn’t always seen as a conceptual artist, his most perceptive critic, Arthur C. Danto, calls him “the nearest thing to a philosophical genius the history of art has produced.”

    Silk screen also enabled Warhol to produce serial images–that is, to choose a motif and then reproduce it repeatedly by silk-screening it in different color combinations. In a conventional printmaking process like etching, the artist makes a limited number of impressions, then destroys the copper plate. But Warhol’s series are not finite in this way. The number of finished works he made depended on how many he needed, or thought he could sell.

    In Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol, their fascinating study of Warhol’s rise from commercial artist to the most celebrated painter and filmmaker in 1960s America, Tony Scherman and David Dalton are clear that Warhol’s move from painting his pictures by hand to photo silk-screening was at the heart of his artistic achievement:

    Traditional, manual virtuosity no longer mattered. The fact that Warhol could draw had no bearing on his art now: how an artwork was made ceased to be a criterion of its quality. The result alone mattered: whether or not it was a striking image. Making art became a series of mental decisions, the most crucial of which was choosing the right source image:–as Warhol would contend some years later, “The selection of the images is the most important and is the fruit of the imagination.”
    Throughout the 1960s Warhol was personally involved in choosing, mixing, and applying the paint in most of the silk-screened works. But it was also his frequent practice to delegate the manual task of silk-screening an image onto canvas to his assistants Gerard Malanga and Billy Name. Malanga has said that in the summer of 1963 he was responsible for painting several canvases, including some Electric Chairs, entirely by himself. The following year Warhol told a journalist from Glamour magazine, “I’m becoming a factory,” and of course the building he worked in wasn’t called the “Studio” but the “Factory.”

    Those who witnessed Warhol at work on a daily basis in these years–Malanga, Billy Name, his manager Paul Morrissey, and his primary assistant from 1972 to 1982, Ronnie Cutrone–all attest that, just as you’d expect from a mind as restless, inventive, and original as Warhol’s, the degree of his intervention in the creation of a painting varied–not only from series to series, but also from painting to painting within the same series.[2]

    By the 1970s Warhol no longer had any sustained involvement in the mass production of his paintings. In his book about Warhol, Holy Terror, Bob Colacello quotes Warhol’s longtime printer Rupert Smith:

    We had so much work that even Augusto [the security man] was doing the painting. We were so busy, Andy and I did everything over the phone. We called it “art by telephone.”[3]
    One person they were calling was Horst Weber von Beeren, who was responsible for painting many of Warhol’s later works in a studio in Tribeca (and not at the Factory in Union Square). He has said that Warhol’s primary role in the creation of these paintings was simply to sign them when they were sold.[4] The artist had come to realize that a painting could be an original Andy Warhol whether or not he ever touched it.

    In fact, Warhol had long been familiar with this arm’s-length working method. In his days as a successful commercial fashion illustrator, his job was simply to make the drawing and hand it over to the art director, not to become involved in the layout. Scherman and Dalton quote Tina Fredericks, the art director at Glamour who gave Warhol his first New York job: “He didn’t care about that stuff–‘Will my drawing be displayed big enough? Are you going to shrink it down?’ You could say to him, ‘We want this,’ and he’d just do it, he’d understand.”

    Moreover, in his early fashion drawings Warhol developed a technique of blotting his initial design onto high-quality paper in such a way that his pen nib never touched the final drawing. “In fact,” Scherman and Dalton continue,

    the original mattered so little to Warhol that he didn’t even draw it–his longtime assistant Nathan Gluck made the first sketch, rubbed it down to make the tracing, and hinged the tracing to the Strathmore [a brand of high quality drawing paper]. Andy entered only for the coup de grâce, the inking and blotting…. What remained constant throughout Warhol’s career, whether he drew, painted, or silk-screened photographs, was his fascination with the simulacrum, the copy, the second-generation image. In commercial art, the division of labor is the norm. When Andy began using it in fine art in the sixties, he undermined the myth of the auteur, the sole, and solitary, fount of art.

    In this conceptual approach to making art, Warhol inherited the legacy of Marcel Duchamp, an artist he knew, admired, painted, and filmed. Like Duchamp’s ready-mades, the ultimate importance of a work by Warhol is not who physically made each object, but the ideas it generates. As the son of immigrants, Warhol in his early works returned again and again to the theme of America itself. What else are the paintings of cheap advertisements for nose jobs and dance lessons concerned with if not the American dream and the price of conformity it exacts? As soon as he’d examined the American obsession with celebrity and glamour in the portraits of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, he was quick to show its race riots and electric chair. Unlike Duchamp’s, his was a highly public art, one that criss-crossed between high art, popular culture, commerce, and daily life.

    Everything that passed before Warhol’s basilisk gaze–celebrities, socialites, speed freaks, rock bands, film, and fashion–he imprinted with his deadpan mixture of glamour and humor, then cast them back into the world as narcissistic reflections of his own personality. This is what makes him one of the most complex and elusive figures in the history of art. As Danto explains in his brilliant short study of Warhol, the question Warhol asked is not “What is art?” but “What is the difference between two things, exactly alike, one of which is art and one of which is not?”


    That is very like the question at the heart of a class-action lawsuit brought by the film producer Joe Simon 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 that was set up eight years after the artist’s death in 1987 to pronounce on the authenticity of his work. The 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 background to the case, which has become something of a cause célèbre among dealers, curators, and critics on both sides of the Atlantic, is discussed in detail in I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon), Richard Polsky’s breezy memoir of the art market before the economic crash. New developments can be followed in Simon’s crusading Web site www .myandywarhol.com.

    The Red Self Portraits are among Warhol’s best-known works, endlessly reproduced in books about the artist and on exhibition posters. Based on an image taken in an automatic photo booth, the portrait shows Warhol’s head and shoulders head-on and slightly from below, a pose much like those in two other important works from this period, the mug shots he used in Thirteen Most Wanted Men and the anonymous young man in his underground film Blow Job. Warhol presents himself as insolent and impassive, in the take-it-or-leave-it stance of the hustler or gangster. Out of register, like a color TV on the blink, the person in the portrait is a new kind of human being, one trapped in some fathomless, unreal televisual space, without physical mass or emotional depth. The dead, unseeing eyes in the self-portrait suggest that he was perfectly serious when he said, “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.”

    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. Prompted by Morrissey (who asked Warhol “why he didn’t save money by having the silk screen factory do the entire job with his instructions for all of his images”), Warhol told Ekstract to send the acetates to a commercial printer for silk-screening. Morrissey 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.[5] After the printing, Ekstract returned the acetates to Warhol.

    The second series is printed on white cotton duck. Its surfaces are slightly flatter, which makes the images look more machine-made than the ones in the first series because there is no evidence of the artist’s hand in the form of under-drawing or paint texture. The effect pleased Warhol. Sam Green, the curator of Warhol’s famous retrospective that opened at the ICA in Philadelphia on October 8, 1965, did not wish to include the Red Self Portrait in the exhibition

    because it seemed too “manufactured” to go with the other paintings. Andy was pushing for it, though, because he said it exemplified his new technique for having works produced without his personal touch: he wanted to get away from that.[6]

    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.[7]

    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. But 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.

    As if this were not enough to authenticate the work, the Bischofberger self-portrait appeared in Rainer Crone’s 1970 catalogue raisonné of Warhol’s work and is reproduced in color on the jacket. Crone is a highly respected independent scholar who worked closely with Warhol over a two-year period to compile this catalogue raisonné. Anthony d’Offay, who was Warhol’s dealer in London, writes in his statement about the “Bruno B Self-Portrait”:

    “When Andy Warhol came to London for his show with us in 1986, he signed in my presence our copy of Crone’s book in two places: one signature was across the dust-wrapper [cover] which reproduces our “Bruno B” Self Portrait eight times. The other was on the book’s half-title.
    It is important to realise that Crone and Warhol together chose the “Bruno B” Self Portrait for the cover of the book and Andy Warhol’s signature across the “Bruno B” image on the dust jacket is further unequivocal evidence that Warhol not only was authenticating the work, but remained extremely proud of it.
    On page 294, the catalog entry (no 169) for the “Bruno B” Self Portrait makes it clear that this is the picture that appears on the front cover of the book and was owned at the time by Bruno Bischofberger.
    It is unthinkable that Warhol would have signed the book and the image if there was the smallest doubt in his mind that the work was not authentic. The combination of the dedication on the back of the painting with the choice of that image for the cover of the catalog raisonné, together with his further endorsement of the image by signing across it leave no room whatsoever for any doubt as to the authenticity of the work and the artist’s intention”.

    In the letter denying that d’Offay’s picture is genuine (May 21, 2003), the board writes, “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.”

    We are now in the realms of farce–and there is more to come. In 2004, the Warhol Foundation copublished its own updated catalogue raisonné with Thomas Ammann AG, a firm of Zurich-based art dealers heavily involved in the sale of Warhol’s work. In it, the authors, all of whom who are paid either by the Warhol Foundation or by Thomas Ammann AG, silently omit all mention of the Bischofberger self-portrait, even in a footnote or an appendix. A picture that existed in 1970 has been made to vanish: so much for scholarly rigor.

    This may be the first time in history that a signed, dated, and dedicated painting personally approved by an artist for the cover of his first major monograph, which included a catalogue raisonné of his works, has been removed from his oeuvre by those he did not personally appoint. Although Rainer Crone has worked closely with the artist and possesses an important archive of the work they did together, at no time was he consulted by the compilers of the 2004 catalogue raisonné. In a statement of August 14, 2009, Crone writes, “I am aware of no other instance in which a revised catalog raisonné omits a hitherto accepted work without explanation.”

    When challenged to explain why it continues to deny the authenticity of works in this series, the board replied in a letter of October 2004 that it

    knows of no independent verifiable documentation from the period in question, 1964 through to 1965, to indicate or suggest that Warhol sanctioned or authorized anyone to make the work.
    But how is it possible to say this? Quite apart from his signature and dedication, there are on record numerous statements from Warhol employees, assistants, and his manager all supporting the evidence regarding Warhol’s intentions about the series.

    Few artists in the twentieth century were as restlessly experimental as Warhol. This ruling by the board represents a complete misunderstanding of the very nature of what he achieved, and how his approach to making his work changed Western art. Innovation has to start somewhere, and it is precisely because the 1965 Red Self Portraits were made without Warhol’s on-the-spot supervision that they are so critically important. They are the kind of transitional works museums and collectors particularly value because they show Warhol groping toward the working method he would adopt in the following decade, when his participation in the creation of his own paintings was often limited to choosing the image and signing the picture.


    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’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.

    Whether this is true or not I can’t say because, unlike any other authentication board that I’m familiar with, this one operates in secret, and is not required to divulge the reasons why a work has not been authenticated. Before it will look at a work submitted to it, the owners must sign a document saying that they will not challenge its verdict in court. Nor is the board obliged to reveal the reason for its decisions, even reserving the right to deauthenticate works that it has already authenticated, and to reinstate works it has already denied.

    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.

    Normally, authentication boards consist of independent experts who have spent their lifetime studying and familiarizing themselves with the work of a particular artist. Often they are made up of former studio assistants, a spouse, and art historians who have organized major shows and written extensively about that artist.[8] But the two longest-serving members of the Warhol board are Neil Printz, a teacher at Caldwell College in New Jersey, and Sally King-Nero, curator of drawings at the Andy Warhol Foundation. We’ve already seen one example of the standard of their scholarship, and neither can be said to have independent status since both are also editors of the catalogue raisonné that is paid for with funds from the Andy Warhol Foundation and the Thomas Ammann firm (Thomas Ammann died in 1993).[9]

    Vincent Fremont, a former Warhol assistant whom the foundation appointed exclusive sales agent for its paintings, and who personally takes a commission on each sale, is a “consultant” to the authentication board. In his lawsuit, Simon says that defendants in his case also enforce their control over the market for Warhol works through a select group of powerful galleries and dealers who enjoy a special relationship with Fremont, the foundation, and the authentication board.

    Over the years, a number of respected writers and scholars have joined the authentication board. Some have written about or helped organize exhibitions of Warhol’s work, but none has had expertise in the authentication of his work or firsthand knowledge of his working methods. In the light of cases like the Red Self Portraits, this has led to the suspicion that the real role of the outside scholars and curators has been to lend credibility to decisions made by Printz and Sally King-Nero in consultation with Fremont.

    The Andy Warhol Foundation is packed with lawyers, and with hundreds of millions of dollars it has all the time in the world to fight lawsuits like Simon’s, drawing them out until their opponents run out of money. So far, it has been impossible for ordinary people to challenge its decisions. But there may now be hope for those whose works have been denied without explanation and for no creditable reason. In May federal judge Laura Taylor Swain, in deciding against the Warhol Foundation’s motion to dismiss Simon’s case, gave the plaintiffs the all-important right of “discovery” so that the authentication board’s long-suppressed methods of reaching its decisions can now be brought to light. If the plaintiffs are successful, this case has the potential to break the stranglehold the board has had on the authentication of Warhol’s work.

    One person who will be following the case with close attention is Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota. In 2008 Anthony d’Offay sold his collection of contemporary art to the English nation (accepting £28 million for a collection then conservatively estimated to be worth £125 million), an act Prime Minister Gordon Brown called “the greatest gift this country has ever received from a private individual.” Among the many works d’Offay included in the donation was the self-portrait signed by Warhol and dedicated to “Bruno B.” Until its status is resolved, d’Offay has been forced to withdraw the painting.

    –September 23, 2009

    [1]Until the twentieth century the stencils used for silk-screening had to be cut by hand, but around 1910 a new technique of photo stenciling greatly expanded the usefulness of the silk-screening process in commercial design. Warhol would clip a photo from a newspaper or use a photo he’d taken himself. This would be sent to a lab to create a “negative” that Warhol would work on. When finished, this was sent to a silk-screening lab to create the screens that were use to print the image on the canvas. Multicolored prints required multiple silk screens.

    [2]Of Warhol’s increasing reliance on assistants, Malanga says:

    In 1965 Warhol stepped up his film making and as Andy advanced with his work he came more and more to rely on a less “hands on” approach, at least he made an attempt. He was early on often quoted in the press as wanting to be a “machine.” It was a metaphor for eliminating authorship. It was also his way of shedding attachments, both physical and emotional. He gradually moved away from the physicality of painting; the silkscreen would in a way erase all vestiges of the human touch….
    “Long Day’s Journey into the Past: Gunnar B. Kvaran speaks with Gerard Malanga,” in Andy Warhol by Andy Warhol (Rizzoli, 2009), p. 163, catalog from the exhibition at Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, 2008.

    [3]Bob Colacello, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up (Cooper Square Press, 1990), p. 478.

    [4]BBC1 television program “Imagine,” January 24, 2006.

    [5]Statement by Paul Morrissey made to the Andy Warhol Authentication board on November 1, 2002.

    [6]Statement of Sam Green to the Andy Warhol Authentication Board, January 30, 2003.

    [7]At this date an original painting by Andy Warhol was not worth very much, and Warhol often bartered his paintings for services–for example to settle dentist and lawyer’s bills, his restaurant tab at Max’s Kansas City, or in payment for arranging a recording session for his band, the Velvet Underground.

    [8]In Warhol’s case one might expect to find scholars of the stature of Rainer Crone, Whitney curator Donna De Salvo, who organized Tate Modern’s magisterial Warhol retrospective in 2002, or Tom Sokolowski, who is director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

    [9]Warhol: Paintings and Sculpture 1964-1969 volume 2, The Andy Warhol Catalog Raisonnee (New York and London, 1970), edited by Neil Printz and Sally King-Nero, both members of Andy Warhol authentication committee, and Georg Frie, an art dealer with Thomas Ammann AG, Zurich Fine Arts.

    February 25, 2010: Rainer Crone, What Andy Warhol Really Did
    November 19, 2009: Joel Wachs, ‘What Is an Andy Warhol?’: An Exchange

    http://www%5B%5BASIN:0500090769 Andy Warhol]].nybooks.com/articles/23153

    Comment by Tom Hastings | March 6, 2010 | Reply

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