John Chamberlain has a lot going on these days, with a big show opening next February at the Guggenheim and a show of monumental photo-based works debuting at Steven Kasher Gallery in September. So he must be relieved to have resolved a much-reported, contentious five-year-long lawsuit.
Art in America has learned that the lawsuit involving Chamberlain, former Warhol assistant Gerard Malanga and an allegedly fake Warhol was quietly settled on Apr. 12, “on the eve” of its going to trial, according to Malanga’s attorney Peter Stern. The settlement, the terms of which remain confidential, came a few weeks before the May 5 opening of Chamberlain’s first show at Gagosian Gallery in New York.
Asked to comment on the case, Stern told A.i.A. that “Mr. Malanga is very pleased that this matter has been resolved.” He said that “there has been no retraction of allegations in the complaint and no one has acknowledged that they are in possession of or know the whereabouts of the painting.”
The work in question, 315 Johns, comprising a grid of small portraits of Chamberlain, was authenticated by the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board in 2000. According to the board’s own guidelines, it reserves the right to change its opinions upon the discovery of new information. Calls and e-mails to the authentication board regarding whether it will revisit this decision were not immediately answered.
Malanga, a photographer and one of Warhol’s assistants, filed a suit against Chamberlain in 2005, accusing him of selling a 1967 painting that he knew was a fake and that did not rightfully belong to him. He was seeking $250,000 in damages and the return of the work, which he claimed to have created with two friends in 1971—after his time at the Factory—as an “homage” to Warhol. Malanga lost track of the painting. He said Warhol never knew of its existence. Malanga recounted in the complaint that at an art fair in 2004 he ran into Chamberlain, who boasted, “You know that painting you made of me? I sold it for $5 million.”
Chamberlain claimed that he acquired the work as one of several art swaps with Warhol. His repeated requests to have the case dismissed were rejected by several courts. In an affidavit, Chamberlain asserted that the work “was conceived and created by Andy Warhol, in discussions with [me] and Henry Geldzahler.” Geldzahler, the famous Metropolitan Museum curator, died in 1994.
According to legal documents, Chamberlain sold the piece in 2000 for more than $3 million to an unnamed collector after the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board determined that it was genuine. Testimony from Jim Jacobs, an artist, dealer, onetime assistant to Chamberlain and purported co-creator of 315 Johns, supported Malanga’s version of events, as did that of Chamberlain’s ex-wife, Lorraine, who stated in an affidavit that he often referred to the canvas as “fake” or “phony” Warhol.