Andy Warhol Estate Accused Of Defacing Authentic Warhol Artwork To Limit The Market

from the who-has-the-right-to-what-now? dept

I recently enjoyed the first World Fair Use Day in Washington DC, put on by Public Knowledge. It was nice to see that one of the main sponsors of the event was The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. After all, if there's a famous artist who epitomizes the value of fair use and not artificially limiting the ability of people to make and sell art, it's Andy Warhol. Given that, it's disappointing to hear (via Justin Levine) that the very same Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is being sued by a woman claiming that the Foundation's Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board deface Warhol artwork owned by others by stamping them with a red "DENIED" stamp.

Now, the article linked above only gives one side of the story, so perhaps there's more to it, but the woman claims that the Foundation purposely defaces the artwork and greatly lowers the value of it in order to create additional scarcity for the artwork which the Foundation itself owns (and sometimes sells for significant sums). Of course, that's a pretty extraordinary claim that probably requires additional proof. The woman suing says that the Foundation requires people to sign a form with an indemnity clause which would stop those who own the works from suing the Foundation.

The article also notes that "the board's stamp of approval is necessary for anyone in the world to sell a Warhol work," but that's the part that confuses me. Why? I know that, in the art world, it is important to be able to prove that a particular work is an original, so I'm guessing that's a part of it. But I don't see how the Foundation could totally bar a sale without the "stamp of approval" (or disapproval, as the case may be). But if it's true that the Foundation is purposely defacing (and disparaging) legitimate works owned by others, that seems like a particularly obnoxious way to represent Warhol -- though, given Warhol's oddities and history of putting his name on the paintings of others, perhaps it's just a modern version of a Warhol art project to insist that legitimate works are fakes.

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  1. identicon
    Otherkevin, 27 Jan 2010 @ 9:56am

    Re: inflammatory language

    You wouldn't know it from reading the original article, but they're not stamping the front of the artwork. The photo clearly shows the "DENIED" marker on the *back* of the canvas. (I'm not sure whether that's a standard way to do this in the art world or not, but in any case, it's much less severe than what the wording "deface" implies, since the "face" is usually taken to be the front.)

    So perhaps deface isn't the correct word, but the gist of it is that by having the "Denied" stamp on it the work is seriously devalued. Not because it is "defaced" in the traditional sense, but in the sense that it has been "officially" invalidated as an authentic Warhol piece. Even if it is an actual Warhol piece, the fact that the Warhol Foundation (who has an economic interest in invalidating the authenticity of any Warhol piece that they don't already own) has claimed that it's not has degraded the value.

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