In 2011, the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board shut its doors. The entity was once part of the artist’s namesake foundation, which had spent three years embroiled in a $7 million lawsuit after it declared a 1965 silkscreen print attributed to Warhol a fake. The print’s owner — filmmaker Joe Simon-Whelan — thought otherwise. In 2007, he launched an antitrust suit against the board and the Andy Warhol Foundation, alleging that the latter had refused to authenticate the work in an effort to inflate the prices of pieces held by the artist’s estate.
The dramatic lawsuit, and the operations of the foundation and its now-shuttered authentication board, are illuminated in art critic Richard Dorment’s upcoming book Warhol After Warhol: Secrets, Lies, & Corruption in the Art World.
Simon-Whelan was one of many in the art world who had grown frustrated with the authentication board’s operations and suspected the group was dismissing authentic Warhols to drive up prices. Although the foundation, established by Warhol and funded by his estate, said its authentication board was an independent body, there had been multiple overlapping members.
The Warhol Foundation did not provide a statement to Hyperallergic in response to Dorment’s accusations. Simon-Whelan eventually withdrew his case in 2010. He had spent a personal fortune and couldn’t continue the grueling legal battle, despite his convictions.
When Simon-Whelan first approached Dorment with the saga of his Warhol self-portrait, upset that the board had refused to verify it, he “didn’t believe it,” the writer told Hyperallergic. “I thought the authentication was 100% correct, and so I resisted the whole thing,” Dorment added. Simon-Whelan had purchased the print in 1989 for around $200,000.
Still, the critic and the producer kept in touch, and Dorment ended up writing about Simon-Whelan’s case in the New York Review of Books. “It’s a story about criminality — it’s true crime,” the author said, noting a cast of characters that includes a former lawyer for the mafia and a Russian oligarch who was murdered.
Amid the more cinematic characters involved in the lawsuit itself, Dorment discusses the curators, scholars, and art historians who he thinks should have known better and failed to ask the right questions. Dorment said colleagues he respects still don’t buy his theories about the foundation: That it created a monopoly on the work of Andy Warhol and deployed an authentication scheme to rake in more and more money.
“In order to find all that information out, I had to follow a case of one person,” Dorment said. “Joe Simon.”
Warhol After Warhol: Secrets, Lies, & Corruption in the Art World will be published by Pegasus Books on December 5.