The prices for modern art have been booming lately and one of the top names that always comes up is Andy Warhol but a new lawsuit highlights a potential risk for Warhol collectors. Joe Simon-Whelan, a filmmaker, is part of a class action lawsuit that alleges the Andy Warhol's estate, art foundation and authentication board have conspired to manipulate the art market to keep the price of Warhols in their own collection high.
Joe Simon-Whelan is the owner of a Warhol self-portrait from 1964. He bought the silk-screen on canvas in 1989 for $195,000 and it has a not on one side from Fred Hughes, the late executor of the Warhol estate,certifying it as an original. When Simon-Whelan brought it to the board for authentication, the board denied it not once but twice even though he also brought letters of substantiation from other art professionals. They even stamped it with a red ink stamp that bled through the canvase. Simon-Whelan was hoping to sell the work for $2 million. Simon-Whelan says he believes that the board is trying to create a monopoly in the market by denying artworks that are not in the foundation's own collection. The lawsuit is seeking $20 million in damages.
The suit comes at a time when Warhols are achieving record prices, .Green Car Crash recently sold for $72 million and the Lemon Marilyn, shown at right, went for $28m on the same day.
Part of the problem is that no one knows precisely how many artworks were produced by Andy Warhol and his Factory. Warhol was famous for seeing art as commerce and devoted himself and his large team of apprentices to churning out a large quantity of art. The fact that Warhol used silk screens and generally focused on known people and objects makes him an easy mark for art fakery and as prices for Warhols rise and rise, there are more people eager to own a Warhol.