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Recommended reading: `What is an Andy Warhol?'

October 14, 2009 | 12:10 pm

WarholSelfPortrait1964 There's an interesting read in the current New York Review of Books in which Richard Dorment, art critic for England's Daily Telegraph, aims his keyboard at the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, for what he considers an unjustifiable and possibly self-serving ruling that has landed those Warhol authorities in federal court in New York City, as defendants in a class-action lawsuit.

While also reviewing three new books on Warhol, "Andy Warhol" by Arthur C. Danto, "Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol" by Tony Scherman and David Dalton, and "I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon)" by Richard Polsky, Dorment marshals an argument against the board's 2004 decision that a silk-screen print, one of 10 1965 "Red Self Portraits," was not an authentic Warhol because the artist literally had phoned in his instructions for their creation, rather than overseeing the printing process in person.

The owner of the print sued the Warhol Foundation (headed by former L.A. city councilman Joel Wachs) and the authentication board. Dorment reports that in May, the judge refused the defendants' motion to dismiss the case and ordered the parties to proceed with discovery -- the process of evidence-gathering in which litigants must make relevant information available to the other side. That, says Dorment, opens the possibility that the case will reveal "the authentication board's long-suppressed methods of reaching its decisions."

On the case's core issue, Dorment argues that Warhol endorsed the contested print by signing it, a commonly accepted proof that an artist regards a work as legitimate. He also quotes from "I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon)," in which Warhol is reported to have pushed for the image's inclusion in his 1965 retrospective in Philadelphia "because he said it exemplified his new technique for having works produced without his personal touch: he wanted to get away from that."

Argues Dorment: "It is precisely because the 1965 "Red Self Portraits" were made without Warhol's on-the-spot supervision that they are so critically important" to understanding how his art tried to prod viewers to consider the relationship between artistic authenticity and commercial mass-production. "This ruling by the board represents a complete misunderstanding of the very nature of what he achieved, and how his approach to making his work changed Western art."

-- Mike Boehm


What Is an Andy Warhol?

Pop Till You Drop

Photo: Andy Warhol , "Self-Portrait 1964" Credit: Courtesy Collection Froehlich, Stuttgart.