Joe Simon-Whelan, an American filmmaker based in London, is leading a class-action suit against the Andy Warhol Estate, foundation, and authentication board, claiming they have conspired to hold the art world hostage in order to manipulate profits on their own collection.
Reports the Guardian: “So powerful is the art world’s reliance on the authentication board’s opinion that, in today’s art market, no one can sell a Warhol that does not have the board’s opinion of authenticity. As such, it indisputably dominates and controls the Warhol market.”
Simon-Whelan says he attempted to have a Warhol he owns authenticated, but was denied twice, even though it bears a note by the late executor of the estate Fred Hughes, which reads “I certify that this is an original painting by Andy Warhol completed by him in 1964.” Simon-Whelan also has a letter from Warhol factory photographer Billy Name, verifying the work’s authenticity.
Simon-Whelan bought the work in 1989 for $195,000 and had hoped to sell it for $2 million, but wasn’t able to without the authentication board’s endorsement: “The legal action estimates the foundation has sold more than $150m of Warhol’s work at inflated prices, and calls for $20m in compensation on behalf of Simon-Whelan and other unnamed alleged victims.”
Vincent Fremont, head of sales at the Warhol estate, has dismissed Simon-Whelan’s claims as “shocking nonsense”.