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Andy Warhol Authentication Board to be dissolved

Andy Warhol Authentication Board to be dissolvedPhoto portrait of Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol is possibly the most influential figure in contemporary art and culture. He was born on August 6th 1928 in Pennsylvania to a working class family; he was the youngest of three. Cursed with a rare neurological disorder at a young age, Warhol found his escape from reality in the form of celebrity magazines, comic books and imagery which would shape his imagination and influence him greatly in later years. He moved to New York in 1949 after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in Pictorial Design.

New York City was kind to Warhol and work came easily to him, he made the city his home and his studio for his life. He gained top assignments as a commercial artist for clients including Tiffany & Co. and Vogue in his first year in New York, quite an achievement! And after establishing himself, he moved to painting and drawing in the 1950s and held his first exhibition at the Hugo Gallery in 1952 with “Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote”. As he matured and his style became more distinct, his paintings began to incorporate photo-based techniques which he had developed as a commercial illustrator.

Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup Can

The most impressive and prolific time in Warhol’s life was undoubtedly the 1960’s, which saw the production of many of his most iconic works. His pieces build on the emerging movement of Pop Art — where artists used everyday consumer objects as subjects — and he made paintings of readily found, mass-produced objects, such as Campbell’s soup cans — when asked why he replied, “I wanted to paint nothing. I was looking for something that was the essence of nothing, and that was it”. These soup cans took their place among his great Marilyn Monroe’s, Dollar Signs and Coca Cola Bottles, all of which are exemplary works of contemporary art.

It has always been the job of The Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc. to certify the authenticity of the works by the artist. The board consists of six members who meet in New York three times a year to examine works and authenticate them as genuine Warhol’s or to spot them as fakes. This is a valuable job and of high importance to the art world, but it has been recently decided that the board will be dissolved in early 2012.

This was announced by the Andy Warhol Foundation after a review of its core aims, the closure will mean that more money can be spent on the foundations charitable goals, Wach told The Art Newspaper that “It is a matter of priorities, and our responsibility to Andy’s mission. Our money should be going to artists, not lawyers” — referring to the astonishing sums that have been spent by lawyers to defend the boards past controversial decisions. For example, the board was criticised last year for spending nearly $7 million defending an antitrust lawsuit brought by collector Joe Simon-Whelan, who accused the board of “engaging in a conspiracy to restrain and monopolise trade in the market for Warhol works”.

Warhol’s Turquoise Marilyn

The closure of the board appears to be a purposeful step back from the Warhol market. “In effect they are saying that they will not serve the market with a dedicated instrument which only does authentication. I don’t blame them, frankly,” Michael Findlay said, the director of Acquavella Galleries, which deals in Warhol’s work on the secondary market. He added that authentication requests are often driven by the desire to “make something worth a lot of money, not whether a work is an important part of the Warhol canon. It’s whether it is something [collectors] can sell.” Some believe that the closure of the board will not have an effect on the market as the Catalogues Raisonné will still be produced and thus people will look at work and be prepared to tell the owner of such works whether it is worthy of being put in the catalogue or not.

The decision to close the board puts more focus onto the charitable work done by the Andy Warhol Foundation, which was established after Warhol’s death in 1987. It is financed by the sale of works from the Warhol estate and provides support for artists, galleries, exhibitions, publications and arts organisations.

There are said to be over 100,000 works by Andy Warhol, and only 6,000 of these have gone through the process of authentication. Do you think that as there are so many more works to review that it is too early to shut down such an operation?

23 November 2011

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