The Andy Warhol Foundation has announced that the Art Authentication Board will shut down in early 2012.
The announcement comes about a year after the lawsuit, brought against the Foundation by collector Joe Simon-Whelan, had finally ended. Although the Foundation was successful in its defense, its practices have come under intense criticism. Further, the Foundation spent over $7 million defending itself.
The Foundation also announced that it will continue to work on establishing a complete catalogue raisonné for Warhol. Will this not affect the market for Warhols in the same way as the Authentication Board? According to The Art Newspaper, Joel Wachs, President of the Foundation, said, “the catalogue raisonné serves a non-market purpose: Andy’s legacy and Warhol scholarship. The market seems to want to use the authentication board, but that can’t be our concern.”
However, catalogue raisonnés often have the same affect as a declaration by an Authentication Board and may lead to the same kinds of lawsuits as Authentication Boards. “A catalogue raisonné is regarded as a definitive catalogue of the works of a particular artist; inclusion of a painting in a catalogue raisonné serves to authenticate the work, while non-inclusion suggests that the work is not genuine” (Kirby v Wildenstein,784 F.Supp. 1112, 1113 [SD NY 1992]). After the Simon-Whelan case was filed, a similar case was filed against the Calder Foundation for failure to include a work owned by the Plaintiff in the Foundation’s catalogue raisonné of Calder works [Thome v The Alexander & Louisa Calder Foundation]. As with the Simon-Whelan case, the suit against the Calder Foundation was dismissed.
Although Foundations have come under fire for monopolistic practices, there have been few remedies available for art collectors whose purchases are deemed inauthentic. Perhaps shutting down the Board will help lessen any criticisms, or perhaps it will just lead to more disgruntled “Warhol” owners on the market.