Legal Battle Over Warhol Self-Portait Lingers

Film-maker Joe Simon-Whelan has been made several attempts to get an Andy Warhol self-portrait authenticated by the Andy Warhol Foundation, but has been met with resistance from the institution. According to The Independent, "the foundation argues that the portrait of Warhol on a red background is a fake because it is printed and not hand-painted and made on linen, rather than cotton."

More from the Independent:

Warhol_411317s Mr Simon-Whelan is suing the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and its subsidiary, the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, for $20m (£13m) after it twice failed to authenticate what he claims is a Warhol self-portrait from 1964, which he intended to sell in 2001.

He has accused the foundation of "engaging in a conspiracy to restrain and monopolise trade in the market for Warhol works" in a fiercely contested case.

The foundation vehemently disputes this. Its lawyer, Nicholas Gravante Jr of the law firm Boies, Schiller and Flexner described the case yesterday as a "sham" and said they would pursue Mr Simon-Whelan for the "rest of his life" if necessary to reclaim the costs of the case. He also claimed in a letter to the court that the painting was stolen from a home in Buckinghamshire before it came into Mr Simon-Whelan's possession.

"Regardless of whether he wins this case he expects to profit from a book he is writing and a film he is making about the case," he said. "When we win this case we will pursue him wherever he is – he can run back to London and hide in a basement. The case has been a sham from day one."

Since Warhol's death in 1987, the Pop artist has risen to become one of the pre-eminent artists of the 20th century, rivalled only by Picasso and Monet in terms of the value of his work. Last November his Eight Elvises sold for a staggering $100m (£60.5m).

The Art Authentication Board has long been the subject of controversy and criticism in the art world as no work of Warhol's can be sold unless it approves it as an original. Those it rejects are stamped on the back with the word "Denied" – leading to claims that the paintings are purposefully ruined. It usually gives no reasons for denying authentication and reserves the right to de-authenticate works it has previously approved.

This has led to claims that the foundation effectively controls the Warhol market. In his complaint, Mr Simon-Whelan alleges that this ensures prices remain high by limiting works available to buy. He argues that his work, which he wanted to sell for $2m, had previously been authenticated and at one point in its history sold by Christie's.


  1. Kevin says

    I know someone who owns a very large Campbell
    s Soup Can on canvass, my eyes about popped out of my head when he took a high-quality digital photo of it to a gallery for an approximate appraisal. That soup produces a head-turning amount of lettuce.

  2. stephen says

    A lot of money at stake and it seems this Warhol Authentication group has people by the balls.

    There’s got to be another way to authenticate work by Warhol.

    If one side has too much influence, that’s the side that earns my skepticism.

  3. veg says

    Andy Warhol was an INCREDIBLY overrated “artist” to begin with–more like a fraud and a trumped up illustrator than anything else who created a cult around himself to make money and gain more than 15 minutes of fame (an adage he coined). Most of the work “by” him wasn’t even made in the strictest sense by hand by Warhol–a factory made it, hired help, silk screening five times removed, etc, etc…But the queer theorists in academe LOVE to write absolute claptrap about how WONDERFUL WarHOLE is. He was just a rank capitalist, a complete sell-out who cared about vapid drag queens, USING people for his own financial gain and then discarding them, making money without doing anything, and every other SHALLOW thing you can think of (yes, it’s possible to be a “fag” and not be shallow!)…No wonder Valerie Solanas tried to KILL HIM! Damn: she missed! All these Warhol collectors and these stupid, fraudulent foundation people are just getting what they deserve. ALL of them–including that ridiculous foundation–are scammers selling scammed bullshit to other people who believe the hype. People are unemployed and fighting to find a job, sitting at home penniless and fuming while reading and these FREAKS of the f’art world are worried about some goddamn scammy painting with a provenance that smells like cow shit! Are they helping ANYONE in the world with their riches! Are they solving any problems worthy of attention! May they all go to sucker’s hell bickering over inflated prices and feel the wrath of a billion burning hot cattle prods thrust over and over and over and over again up their upturned motherfucking cocksucking asses!

  4. AJD says


    You need to talk to your therapist, ’cause the pills aren’t working.

    Also, in my experience it is usually jealous underachievers who sit around complaining that someone else is rich instead of getting out there and making money. The more I surf liberal blogs only to find sobbing queens asking for handouts, the more I feel like voting Republican.

  5. stranded says

    First issue: It seems that this guy has a point about the foundation manipulating the market. That needs to be challenged. But I’ve studied Warhol for 30 years and never heard of him using only print without paint in his portraits, so my guess is that the work is indeed a fake.

    Second and more importantly: Veg, chill. The history of art is one where artists used assistants to make the work they called their own. And most of those artists were also horrible people. That doesn’t make their work any less potent. Warhol and his admirers knew exactly why his work was and is important. I can accept your derision for Warhol’s inhumanity, but I can’t accept your cheers and support for someone trying to murder him. Valerie Solanis was a very disturbed person, and if you mean to side with her your opinions lose all credibility.

  6. christina nevis says

    wow, what would warhol think about joel wachs a former los angeles city councilman now heading the warhol foundation spending $500,000 per month on lawyers defending his scandal ridden board. these people are crooks. this is a painting which has been signed and dedicated by warhol to his art dealer.

  7. veg says


    Dear brethren, I thought the impossibly over-the-top nature of my rant (replete with a reference to towleroad and sitting around on the computer all day and being unemployed–thankfully, I am employed) would clue you into the satirical nature of my writing.

    But alas, I went too far and it just came off as way too serious and even disturbing!

    Perhaps the seriousness came from this…

    Most satire (and trolling) is probably based on kernels of truth and a few of my points were honestly made.

    Warhol was indeed a capitalist whose basic skills in drawing, painting, design, and sculpting were far beneath so many of his gay pop art peers (like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and David Hockney).

    Yet, more than the others, he changed (or corrupted, depending on your view) the still protected definitions of art, opening fresh frontlines in the fine art versus “pop” art wars…

    Doesn’t that assessment sound more level headed?

    I hope so.

    Y’all take care.

  8. Paul R says

    Veg, I had no idea you were kidding. And as with most online rants like that, I stopped reading pretty quickly. Sarcasm is difficult to convey in posts because the Internet (like the real world) is full of lunatics.

  9. veg says

    I know, Paul! My rant went too far…I guess deep down I really do dislike Warhol’s work and I have nothing but contempt for the inflated prices of contemporary art; but I don’t want foundation members or those suing them to go to hell and get fucked in the butt by cattle prods or anything. I’m sorry for my disturbing, hideous rant. Ciao.

  10. Paul R says

    I’m definitely with you on Warhol and inflated art prices! I blame Warhol for making art far more of a business than it was 50 years ago—indeed, that was a goal of his. People now often think of art as an investment instead of an aesthetic element, and artists are forced to self-promote endlessly when they could be creating art.

    The only think I like about Warhol is that he fleeced a lot of self-important or delusional celebrities and other people by charging them $75K for, say, four Polaroids (and that was in the 1970s). Liza Minnelli and many others happily ponied up, which is a sad reflection on how they viewed art but is a pretty funny thing for Warhol to have gotten away with. Ethical, no, but certainly ballsy!

    That said, without Warhol there would be no Jeff Koons or many other absurd “artists” (I agree that if someone does nothing more than sign a piece, it’s not truly their art). Warhol also helped gave modern art a bad name for the average person.

  11. nicholasg says

    I for one actually agree with VEG 1st post. I saw a doco on Whelan a few years ago and it was very insightful. That foundation smells dirty! Andy never meant it to be this way…or did he?

  12. judith feldman says

    joel wachs only came out of the closet as he was running for mayor and was about to be exposed. he certainly didnt do it for the gay community.
    as far as i am aware , the painting in question was painted using silk screens, something warhol always did. he usually used hand painting in the 60’s and only graduated to using multiple screens on the 70’s and 80’s, there lies the problem. wachs, who is the nominal head of the authentication board, sees the 60’s works as sacred, hence the high prices, and wants to keep it that way. this ensures he can chrun out the ghastly merchandising which funds the high salaries and perks the cronies at the foundation are milking. so he hires lawyers who worked for the mob to represent the warhol foundation, spending millions of monies to protect the reputations of wachs so called ‘experts. i prefer to rely on the testimony of paul morrissey, rainer crone and those who worked alongside warhol at the time and not tax attorneys such a joel wachs.