The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

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DECEMBER 3, 2009 Letter to the Editors, NY Review of Books

To the Editors:
 
Following is the response of The Andy Warhol Foundation to both David Mearns’ letter (November 19, 2009) and Richard Dorment’s reply (dated December 17, 2009):
 
(1)   Mr. Mearns’ allegation that the Andy Warhol Authentication Board somehow “conspired” with the Andy Warhol Foundation to “deauthenticate” his work is an utterly false, reckless claim, and completely unsupported by the facts. And here are the facts to set the record straight:  The Board and the Foundation are separate and independent charitable organizations.  The Board, comprised of experts in the field noted for their integrity and scholarly excellence, conducts thoughtful, reasoned analysis of each work and engages in deliberations to reach decisions that are completely independent, by design, from the Foundation. 
 
Mr. Mearns’ work is one in a series of works that the Board determined are not the work of Andy Warhol.  The Board detailed the specific reasons and evidence that led to its determination concerning this series of works in letters to owners of works in this series and Joe Simon-Whelan, one of these owners, has posted the letter on his website – given this, the Board’s determination concerning this series of works can hardly be described as “secret” and was in fact quite transparent.
 
The Foundation’s core mission is to protect and enhance the legacy of Andy Warhol, while also promoting the visual arts.  All of the Foundation’s charitable activities, including substantial grants, discounts on Warhol artwork and outright donations to museums, colleges and universities, are designed to further this mission, and particularly the Warhol legacy.  The Board also performs a critical role in preserving the Warhol legacy, and protecting buyers and sellers, by preventing inauthentic works from entering the market.  Mr. Mearns’ views are a damaging distortion of the truth and are motivated by his own economic self-interests that don’t stand up to the facts. 
 
(2)   Richard Dorment is not a neutral, unbiased commentator.  Quite the contrary, Mr. Dorment’s specious and compromised claims are the product of his long-standing relationship with Joe Simon-Whelan, the sole plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Foundation and the Board. Mr. Dorment was less than candid when he glossed over his prior effort to help Mr. Simon as “my interest mainly took the form of introducing him to ... Robert Rosenblum”. In fact, Mr. Dorment was an active participant to pressure the Board to authenticate an obviously forged dollar bills collage in Mr. Simon-Whelan’s possession, to the extent that Mr. Rosenblum wrote Mr. Dorment on July 17, 2003 that “…I’d be grateful if you didn’t write me about the Warhol problem again”. On three separate occasions Mr. Simon-Whelan submitted this collage to the Board, while Mr. Dorment sent emails to Board members advocating that the work should be deemed an authentic Warhol, despite the fact that the collage contained dollar bills that were signed by the US Treasury after Andy Warhol had died.  Mr. Dorment’s article is a thinly-veiled attempt to promote Mr. Simon-Whelan’s legal agenda.
 
The Board is both independent and comprised of respected Warhol scholars with impeccable credentials and well-established reputations for integrity and scholarly excellence.  Mr. Dorment’s allegation concerning the Foundation’s supposed “financial interest” is directly contradicted by the objective facts.  The Foundation is a charitable non-profit organization, and has functioned exclusively in this capacity for over 20 years.  The Foundation donates many Warhol works, sells others at substantial discounts, and the vast majority of the proceeds from its sales are used to fund grants for the visual arts.  Since its inception, the Foundation has given away some $200 million and thus the notion that it has any economic or other self profiting motive to harm owners of legitimate works by Andy Warhol is absurd on its face. 
 
One final word about the litigation commenced by Mr. Simon-Whelan: it is entirely without legal or evidentiary merit and Mr. Dorment's biased attempts to make his case can't change that. The Foundation and Board look forward to defending this lawsuit and pursuing their counterclaims against Mr. Simon-Whelan for all costs and expenses incurred in defense of this unproductive litigation.
 
Sincerely,
Joel Wachs, President
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts