NEW YORK—Curators Judith Goldman and Trevor Fairbrother have been appointed to the Andy Warhol Authentication Board, New York. The board has come under fire in recent years for the rejection of works its members believe were not directly made or supervised by Warhol.
The other board members are art historian Neil Printz, coauthor of the Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, which is being published by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Robert Rosenblum, professor of fine arts, New York University, and curator of 20th-century art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Sally King-Nero, curator of drawings and photography for the Warhol Foundation, which established and oversees the board. Former board member David Whitney, an independent curator who was a friend of Warhol’s and worked with him, died earlier this year.
Goldman, who is an ARTnews contributing editor, was a curator of prints at the Whitney Museum of American Art from 1977-81. Fairbrother was a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from 1981-96, and curator of modern art at the Seattle Art Museum from 1996-2001.
The authentication board, which was established by the foundation in 1995, has examined more than 3,000 submitted works and has rejected about 10 to 15 percent of them as inauthentic. Its decisions are unanimous and are protected by a waiver indemnifying the board, the foundation and the estate, a practice that is not uncommon among authentication committees.
Because the board does not explain its decisions—saying that explanations are subject to misunderstanding, misinterpretation or misuse—there has been frustration in the market about how it arrives at its conclusions. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the board has rejected works previously authenticated by representatives of the foundation and has reversed its own opinions about works it had previously determined to be authentic.
Disgruntled collectors, whose works have been deemed inauthentic, have publicly accused board members of making decisions to purposefully increase the value of the foundation’s holdings of Warhol artworks, which it routinely sells. Particularly controversial has been the authentication board’s policy of not authenticating works that were made without Warhol’s direct supervision.
Former Warhol associates and some scholars claim that Warhol was a conceptual artist who often allowed works to be made without his oversight and that the artist sought to challenge certain notions of authorship, rarity and uniqueness.
But authentication board member Robert Rosenblum told ARTnewsletter that Warhol’s laissez-faire public persona contradicted his actual working methods. Despite the fact that Warhol “liked the idea of being a machine and completely impersonal, he was very proprietary about what he let out of his studio,” says Rosenblum. “He did absolutely supervise his work.” Asked why an unsupervised work by Warhol should not be considered authentic and published in the catalogue raisonné, Rosenblum replied, “That would mean including every work from every silkscreen he created, even those made after his death. It could go on forever.” The bottom line, says Rosenblum, is that “just as with posthumous casts of sculpture, the original presence and/or hand of an artist matters, no matter how conceptual a work is. If one found [Marcel] Duchamp’s first ‘readymade’—the 1914 Bottlerack, now lost—it would be far more important and valuable than the eight replicas made of it in 1964.”