Sunday 23 October 2011

How will we tell our Warhols from our baked beans now?

The real Andy Warhol
-- or is it?
The Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board will close early next year. The announcement was made by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which will continue its work on Warhol's catalogue raisonné and other core projects, reports the The Art Newspaper.

Over its 16-year life, the Board has had more than its fair share of criticism, building up a controversial reputation and sky-high litigation bills surrounding its authentication decisions.

On one occasion it rejected a work which had belonged to Warhol's one-time gallerist Anthony d'Offay, and which was signed, dated, and had been included in a previous Warhol catalogue raisonné with Warhol's knowledge.

More recently, the Board spent close to US$7m defending an antitrust lawsuit brought by collector and filmmaker Joe Simon-Whelan, who had requested - and been denied - authentication of a work he and other experts considered to be a Warhol portrait. He accused the Board of conspiring to 'restrain and monopolise trade in the market for Warhol works'. The parties settled last year, but apparently not very amicably: a lawyer for the Foundation said Simon-Whelan had admitted in court that 'there was no basis for his allegations', while the collector himself explained that he had ceased to pursue the multi-million dollar case because he couldn't afford it (some inauthentic commentary there from somebody).

As well as saving millions in legal fees, the Board's running costs of US$500,000 per year will be freed up by the closure. This will allow the Foundation 'to maximize its grant-making and other charitable activities in support of the visual arts', says the Foundation's president Joel Wachs.

Warhol, whose will set up the Foundation for the advancement of the arts (rather than in support of the legal industry), would no doubt have approved.

Read The Art Newspaper's report here
Read's report here

Another piece written for Art & Artifice by Elizabeth Emerson

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