People have asked me why, after my painting had been authenticated several times by those whom Warhol left in charge of his legacy, I still submitted myandywarhol for authentication.
The bottom line is that it is nearly impossible to sell an Andy Warhol painting without first submitting it to the Board for authentication. The Board claims that theirs is "just an opinion" but the fact is that Sotheby's and Christie's will not sell a picture unless it has the Board's approval. If a painting is with a gallery, the lawyers for the Warhol Foundation can effectively veto a sale by demanding authentication, or even re-authentication.
Around the time I bought myandywarhol, Vincent Fremont, a former member of the Authentication Board and the primary Warhol dealer for the Warhol Foundation, attempted to purchase a self portrait in the same series for the Foundation. When he was unsuccessful in this, Fremont wrote a letter dated March 14, 1991 stating that he would deal with my picture 'privately'. I now believe that what he meant was that he intended to deny its authenticity.
At that stage in my life I didn't know as much about Warhol's work as I do now. If Freemont had only contacted me to express any doubts he may have had about the authenticity of the painting, I would have had the choice of taking it back to the gallery to ask either for a refund or to exchange it for another picture. By the time the picture had been denied, I didn't have that choice because it had been (OVER) seven years since the original purchase, long after the statue of limitations had expired and the gallery was no longer obliged to take the picture back.
Instead, he said nothing.
My problems started when I went to sell the painting. I found a purchaser almost at once, but he requested confirmation that the picture was to be included in the catalogue raisonne of Warhol's work. This is standard practice and so of course I agreed. The editor of the catalogue raisonne is Georg Frei, a former member of the Authentication Board and a dealer in Warhol's work. Frei told me that myandywarhol was a great example of Warhol's work - but he also told the buyer not to purchase the picture until it had gone to the Board for authentication. Again, I readily agreed. Although I had an airtight contract, I released the buyer from the sale.
Now things become darker. Vincent Fremont contacted me and several of my friends. He told me that it would be an enormous help, and also increase the value of the picture, if I had it photographed for the catalogue raisonne. What he did not tell me, and what I didn't learn until much later, was that at the same time he was expressing doubts about the painting to prospective clients. I now realize that he was fully aware that the painting would be denied.
I was told the process was a mere formality and thought this would be true because of the picture's exceptionally good provenance. My mistake was to think that the Warhol Authentication Board operated to the same high standards as the Boards that authenticate the work of other artists. Those Boards are made up of acknowledged experts whose opinion carries weight because they know the artist's work inside out. At the time, I had no idea that the Warhol Board members only had a superficial knowledge of Warhol's work.
And what I obviously couldn't have known is that the decision to deny my painting had already been made. I also learned from Paul Morrissey and a writer for Vanity Fair that my painting had apparently been denied even before two of the four Authentication Board members had even seen it.
The process is lengthy and complicated. First, you write to the Board asking permission to submit the picture. Next, after permission is granted, they fax you a ten page legal document which you must sign and send back before they agree to consider your application. Once accepted, the picture must be insured, and sent by courier or dropped off at their rather imposing premises.
Example of the confusion surrounding the Authentication Board's policy. Authenticated, then denied before being re-authenticated after the foundation began selling similar works. Wisely, the owner sold this as quickly as possible at Sotheby's 2008, as the Board may reverse its latest decision.
© My Andy Warhol 2008