Catalogues raisonnés are scholarly endeavours that list every known work in an artist’s oeuvre. They also have an enormous influence on the market. If a work is not published in a catalogue raisonné, it has little or no market value.

Joe Simon, a London-based film producer and collector, has been trying for years to obtain the current board’s acceptance of a Warhol self-portrait he bought in 1989, which was twice approved by previous foundation representatives. Simon and other dealers and collectors have told Vanity Fair and other publications that they intend to take legal action against the board and the foundation for decisions they say have cost them millions. They contend that the board is refusing to authenticate certain artworks in order to increase the value of the foundation’s own collection.

Wachs scoffs at the notion that the board’s decisions are linked with the relative value of the foundation’s assets. He also dismisses criticism that is a conflict of interest for the foundation to be selling works by Warhol and, at the same time, judging the authenticity of works owned by others. “The authentication board operates completely independently,” Wachs says. “The foundation is totally uninvolved in its decisions.”

Dealers and auction specialists say that outright fakes of Warhol’s works are relatively easy to spot. It’s much more difficult, they say, to distinguish between works that were made under Warhol’s direction and those that weren’t, in part because Warhol employed assistants and used reproducible silk screens.

Warhol described the silk-screening process like this: “With silkscreening, you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time.”

The board has set out to decide which works made with his silk screens were authorized by Warhol. “There are clear distinctions between what Warhol made and what he did not,” the board has stated. “The goal of the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board is to clarify these distinctions.”

Among the works the board has rejected is a 1967 two-panel self-portrait produced by a Michigan art class and signed by Warhol, which New York dealer Ivan Karp, one of Warhol’s earliest supporters, bought in the 1960s and later sold. The work had been authenticated by the foundation in 1989 as a “collaboration.” It was authorized by Warhol, with his signature,” say Karp, who is now out the $40,000 purchase price he refunded to the buyer when the work was rejected. “The authentication board does not dispute the signature. They say they do not take the signature into account. How can they say that! The signature is the confirming act!”

Asked by ARTnews if the board views Warhol’s signature as an authenticating act, the board responded, via fax: “The signature is taken into consideration as one factor among many during the authentication review.” The bottom line, surmises Karp, is that “if the board doesn’t like the conditions under which an object was made, it’s not going to authenticate it.”

In general a work doesn’t have to be reviewed by the board for Christie’s or Sotheby’s to handle it if its provenance is solid, although the board has had suspect works pulled form auction, sources say. “With some artists’ estates, you have to secure the authentication board’s approval because clients are looking for it,” says Gorvy. But in the case of Warhol, “this is not currently deemed by buyers to be essential for a work to be sold at auction.”

“The vast majority of what we sell never needs an authentication,” says Ronald Feldman, who commissioned works from Warhol, copublished with the foundation the catalogue raisonné of prints, and frequently buys works from the foundation. But another dealer insists, “You need their ‘Good Housekeeping stamp of approval.’ Without it a work is dead in the water.” Jean-Paul Russell, who worked for Warhol’s printer in the 1980s, says he would never submit one of his works to the board. “what would they tell me? That it’s real?” asks Russell. “I know more about his work than they do.” Russell says he is the owner of a green Hamburger painting that Warhol made on the same roll of canvas as a Camouflage painting. “Nobody would know that story,” says Russell. “The authentication board wouldn’t know why it was green.”

Some critics charge that the independence of the authentication board is compromised by the fact that two of its four members are also employees of the foundation: Printz is coeditor of the first and second volumes of the foundation’s catalogue raisonné of Warhol paintings, sculpture, and drawings. King-Nero, the foundation’s curator of drawings and photography, works with Printz on the catalogue.

Foundation employees often play dual roles or are involved in both the foundation’s business and its scholarly ventures. Vincent Fremont, who worked for Warhol from 1969 until the artist’s death, is the foundation’s exclusive sales agent for paintings, sculpture, and drawings and is also a consultant to the authentication board. Fremont was names in Warhol’s will as one of the foundation’s three founding trustees (with the late Frederick Hughes, Warhol’s longtime manager, and his older brother, John Warhola, who lives in Pittsburgh). He was the foundation’s primary authenticator and exclusive agent for all works sold between 1990 and 1995.
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