Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Hard Knock-Off Life With a Warhol

Warhol is huge in the U.S. His Jackies, Edies, and Elvises are our country's Mona Lisa's to France. One would only expect the demand for an original Warhol would be high, not to mention the nice price tag along with them. But just as Andy Warhol is one of the most famous painters in the U.S., he is also one of the most faked. Because Warhol used production methods of “mechanized” art, utilizing employees for help, it is easy for forgers to start with the photographs and create silkscreens similar to the originals. In an effort to protect his legacy, in 1995, the Andy Warhol Foundation established the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board. Since its inception, more than 3,000 Warhol works have been submitted. To date, the board has rejected about 10 to 15 percent of the works as inauthentic.

As convenient as this board may sound, it's caused quite some controversy. Number one, the board never gives a reason for denial. This leaves those rejected with no direction as to what to do with this work of art they could have potentially spent loads of money on, sort of like a 25 year old woman on the streets of Milan after buying a fake Fendi handbag and the strap breaks. In particular, there is one rejected man, who really doesn't agree with the board, and he's not about to give up.

Joe Simon, a British film producer purchase a Warhol self-portrait painting in 1989 for $195,000. The image is a stark, black-and-white image on a bright orange-red ground, and had been authenticated by Warhol factotum Frederick Hughes. In 2006, he hit a huge payoff when he was planning to sell the piece for a cool 2 million, under the condition he would submit the piece to the Authentication Board. The dealer convinced Simon this would only be beneficial as the piece would then be included in the catalog raisone, which is the mission project of the Andy Warhol Foundation. Simon was confident as the authenticity had previously been confirmed by a member of the foundation. Bad news for Simon: REJECTED, and the value was decreased significantly. As you can only imagine, Simon was ready to fight, and filed a $120-million lawsuit against the Warhol board in July 2007.
The fight is still not over today, it's just getting started. An interesting story like this deserve a web-site and Simon has that task down pat. His web-site,, provides extensive information about his battle with the Board, articles, the evidence and the ability to download the piece for your own display. Talk about rallying the troops.

1 comment:

andywarholpainting said...

its been two years since the case was filed and has yet to go to court. With warhol's employees and family anxious to give their testimony, which is on simon's website, the lawyers for the foundation are doing all they can to prolong this.

Joe Simon Asks Judge to Let Him Question Aging Witnesses

March 24, 2009-- An owner of an Andy Warhol self- portrait asked a New York judge to let him question witnesses in his $120 million lawsuit against the late artist’s foundation because “a number” of them have died or are becoming infirm.

Joe Simon, the portrait’s owner, was told by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts that his painting was a fake. He alleged in a 2007 lawsuit that the foundation was running “a 20-year scheme” to control prices in the market for Warhol pictures, according to a filing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

More than two witnesses have died since then while five are “elderly or in bad health,” Joe Simon, a London-based filmmaker, said in a letter obtained by Bloomberg News that was faxed to the judge yesterday. In the note, he asked Judge Laura Swain to lift her January 2008 order postponing sworn interrogations before trial.

“Many of the people involved in the creation of this picture in the mid-1960s are now in their seventies or beyond and we need to depose them,” Brian Kerr, a lawyer for Simon at Browne Woods George LLP, said in a phone interview today. The letter was “an informal request to the judge for a conference on the matter,” he said.

Joe Simon, a London-based filmmaker, bought the Warhol portrait for $195,000 in 1989, one of several made in 1965 under Warhol’s direction at his so-called art factory in New York and judged genuine by the foundation, according to court papers.

Twice Denied

It was twice stamped “Denied,” or fake, in 2002 and 2003 when he resubmitted it before trying to sell it for an anticipated $2 million, the filing said. Buyers of Warhol pictures often ask sellers to have his pictures authenticated, dealers said.

Warhol, who died in 1987, produced images of cult figures such as Marilyn Monroe that are owned by collectors from hedge- fund manager Steven Cohen to London jeweler Laurence Graff. Lawsuits and complaints about the artist’s foundation, which decides if pictures are genuine, mounted as prices rose in the past two decades, said Garry Sesser, a lawyer for the foundation with Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP.

The judge originally postponed pre-trial evidence gathering until she could decide on the foundation’s motion to dismiss the suit, Sesser said. The foundation will write to the judge this week opposing Simon’s request to speed the process, he said.

The case is Simon v. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc., 07-CV-6423, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).