Campbell's Soup Can by "Pietro Psaier" (Lot 1425 of Bamfords auction on 13 October 2010) (See here)
Last month I reported on the role that art forgers John and Nadia Fairchild played in the "Pietro Psaier" saga. They had started a company called Factory Additions and certificates bearing the Factory Additions stamp were being used to authenticate the works of Psaier - an artist who U.K. auctioneer John Nicholson and Psaier "researcher" Jacqueline Chapman have claimed collaborated with Warhol on "joint works" of art. A number of joint works were exhibited during a series of exhibitions in Spain. The most recent Spanish exhibition of these paintings took place earlier this year (Summer 2010) at ArtePaso, Madrid. See here.
The extent of the problem became known after I objected to a Wikipedia biography for Psaier which repeated many of the claims made by John Nicholson in his press release which stated that "Psaier produced layouts, silk-screens and joint works at Warhol’s studio 'The Factory'..." I've spent the past ten years researching and writing about Warhol for this site and the thought that there could have been "joint works" produced by Warhol and an individual who I had never heard of and who had never appeared in any literature about Warhol seemed absurd to me.
Around the time that I first became aware of Nicholson's press release I was in correspondence with Vincent Fremont (the Warhol Foundation's exclusive sales agent for their Warhol paintings) because the Hayward Gallery was planning some events in conjunction with their "Andy Warhol: Other Voices Other Rooms" exhibition. (I ended up moderating a superstar panel discussion for the Hayward and, as a separate event, Vincent did a question and answer session with Jane Holzer.) In our emails we were comparing notes about the Hayward and I asked Vincent if he had ever heard of Psaier. He responded:
"As you know, I met Andy in 1969. I was hired by Andy to work full time at his studio around January 1971. When I was made Vice-President of Andy Warhol Enterprises, Inc in around 1974 I was given a business checking account. I paid most of the bills and wrote all the payroll checks and freelance workers' checks from then on. I never met or remember a Pietro Psaier collaborating with Andy Warhol to create artwork. There is no mention of him in Andy's diary. Yes, you are right I would know who was around Andy in the 1970s and 80s and I do not remember him." (Email 28 July 2008)
I also emailed Billy Name - the only person who actually lived at the Factory on a continuous basis throughout the '60s - and asked him whether he recalled Pietro Psaier. Billy responded: "I'd guess it's like a syndicate for making a market for the fake Psaier works. He certainly wasn't around the Factory anytime in the sixties." (Email 28 July 2008)
The archivist for The Warhol museum, Matt Wrbican, had also commented on Pietro Psaier in a section of Wikipedia titled "Talk: Andy Warhol" here.
All of his comments have since been removed but are referred to in the original debate about Psaier on Wikipedia here.
"Another troubling matter is the reference to Pietro Psaier. As custodian of Warhol's archives, I can state unequivocally that I have never seen any reference to this person in them. It's my belief that his alleged friendship/collaboration is a complete sham and hoax, and I would really love to have that belief shattered with indisputable hard evidence."
Joel Wachs, the head of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, has also denied any knowledge of Psaier working with Warhol. The 17 September 2008 issue of the New York Post noted that "when word of the upcoming [Psaier] sale [by John Nicholson] reached the Andy Warhol Foundation it turned out no one there had ever heard of Psaier, said President Joel Wachs."
Despite the denials by Wrbican, Fremont and Billy Name, the auctioneer John Nicholson continued selling works by Psaier and produced a "researcher," Jacqueline Chapman, to back up his claims about the artist. Since last month's report, I have managed to locate Chapman who apparently opened a small gallery called the Esher Gallery in Surrey last year - the same area of the U.K. that Nicholson is based in. Chapman has been one of Psaier's most vocal proponents.
A photograph of Chapman can be found here.
The article in the Surrey newpaper notes that Chapman is selling a "cartoon drawing" by John Lennon for £60,000 in her gallery. According to the article, "Miss Chapman had to send pictures of her gallery to a firm in New York before it was agreed she could host the exhibition" although it doesn't indicate who the "firm" was. As with a previous site owned by Chapman, AndAntiques, her gallery is linked to a charity. With AndAntiques it was the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign. With her current gallery it's a veterans' charity called Combat Stress which has as its patron Prince Charles. Art by Prince Charles is apparently also being sold by the gallery. Chapman states on the website of her gallery that "Other artworks in our [Christmas] exhibition will include those by HRH Prince Charles...."
Strangely, for someone who vehemently defends Psaier, Jacqueline Chapman doesn't sell his paintings from her gallery, although she continues to defend him on another site she owns, pietropsaierartist.com. John Nicholson continues to refer potential Psaier buyers to Chapman's site from his auction site. Chapman is also still listed as the producer of a film about Psaier which was mentioned at the end of one of Nicholson's press releases in a section titled "Pietro Psaier - his memory lives on with a Biopic at Cannes Film Festival"). The fact that a film was being made about Psaier lent credence to the claims made about him. But it has turned out that the alleged "film" is apparently just a website. The actual film has never been made.
"Pietro Psaier" apparently shared Chapman's interest in Lennon. Some of his paintings incorporated images of Lennon - and vice-versa. The following is a description of a work attributed to Lennon that was offered for sale by Fraser's Auctions:
Was John Lennon known to have created a work called "Edie Sedgwick Suicide" or incorporate such a work into his own art? I doubt it. Unfortunately the description is not accompanied by an image but it would be interesting to see what the "bold pencil signature from Lennon" looks like.
Below is one of Psaier's paintings that incorporate Lennon's image that was recently offered for sale by Bamfords (in October 2010) during their Antiques and Fine Art Sale:
The item is described as "fruitwood and mixed media, signed Pietro Psaier, AP, proof edition stamp, studio proof seal." But what is a "studio proof?" A proof made in a studio? A "proof" is a test print that is made before actual prints are created. What has happened to the other prints that were made from the "proof?" Was this work offered as a painting or a print?
And here is a signed Pietro Psaier "painting" of Lennon that was offered for sale through Ebay even more recently - in November, 2010:
The Ebay listing for the work says this: "PIETRO PSAIER WORKED IN THE SAME STUDIO AS ANDY WARHOL AND WAS REPUTED TO HAVE SIGNED ALOT OF WARHOLS WORKS FOR HIM. IT WAS ALSO SUGGESTED THAT HE WAS ANDY WARHOL'S LOVER FOR SOME TIME. THERE IS SOME DEBATE ABOUT PSAIER AND THE DECLARATION OF HIS DEATH BUT WHAT CAN BE DETERMINED THAT WHEN HIS DEATH IS FORMALLY DECLARED THAT THE VALUE OF HIS WORKS WILL INCREASE SHARPLY. UNFORTUNATELY I MUST PART WITH THIS GREAT PIECE OF ART AND WHOEVER BUYS THIS WILL DEFINATELY SEE A GOOD RETURN ON THEIR MONEY."
The certificate gives the impression that it is an official State of California document - which it clearly isn't. Other works of art by Psaier have also been accompanied by State of California documents that look slightly more realistic, as noted in October:
These State of California documents have been declared forgeries by the Secretary of State's office.
Other art dealers still selling Psaier's work include the Coloured Rain Gallery in Northern Ireland. I emailed the gallery with my doubts about Psaier when I first became aware of Nicholson's claims two years ago and received the following response from one of the owners of the gallery, Martin C. Donnelly:
"Thank you for your very interesting email. I can tell you that all of the works that we have acquired by 'Pietro Psaier' were purchased from John Nicholson's Auctioneers between May 2006 and June 2007 and the text relating to them is reproduced from that source. Coloured Rain is a reputable Gallery specialising in Irish Art. The above-mentioned works really were a diversion for us and were intended to assist in launching a new venue with interesting visual pieces with a broader appeal outside of the Irish context. We have sold a number of the works which were acquired and sold in good faith mostly to existing local clients. There certainly has been no intention on our part to misrepresent or deceive and we will gladly engage with any of our clients who feel unhappy or aggrieved. I believe that John Nicholson is currently on holidays and we will communicate with him on his return. Until such time and in the absence of any further information we will remove this artist's work from our website." (Email 2 August 2008)
I notice, however, that Coloured Rain still has a number of works by Pietro Psaier on their website including the one pictured below:
The Chairman Series (1971) by Pietro Psaier (see Coloured Rain)
Andy Warhol is mentioned in the description of the piece: "The work depicts a Studio Study based on 1950’s Red China propaganda, hand screened from old silk-screens from the Psaier Collection, obtained in China when Psaier & Warhol toured China. This work has remained unrecorded since it was just located in a North Hollywood Chinese gift store." Are they joking? Warhol's famous tour of China took place in 1985 - after the above painting was allegedly created. And there was nobody named "Pietro Psaier" who was part of Warhol's entourage when he made the trip. Accompanying Warhol to China was Natasha Grenfell, Fred Hughes and Christopher Makos. The trip was the subject of the documentary Andy Warhol: Made in China and, no, Pietro Psaier does not appear in the film.
Then there are the "Factory Additions" paintings, such as "Silver Jackie" reproduced below which also appears on the Coloured Rain website. As discussed last month, Factory Additions was the company that the convicted art forgers, John and Nadia Fairchild, founded in Los Angeles about thirty years after Warhol's company Factory Additions had ceased trading.
Silver Jackie by Pietro Psaier (See Coloured Rain)
Psaier's "Silver Jackie" is described on the Coloured Rain Gallery's website as "SILVER JACKIE from Factory Additions Silkscreen. PROOF. Silver synthetic polymer and paint and silkscreen inks with diamond dust and mixed media base. Signed. New York." Anyone buying this would think that it had to do with Warhol because of the designation of "Factory Additions Silkscreen" (not to mention the title of the work). It's called a "proof" but didn't the gallery wonder what it was a "proof" of? Was the "proof" sold as a print or a painting?
Many of the Psaier paintings sold at Coloured Rain also have edition numbers. For instance, the image below is numbered "No. 4 out of 20." But, again, is this work being sold as a print or a painting? Prints have edition numbers, not paintings. If it is being sold as a print, what happened to the other 19 editions?
One Dollar Bill, After Warhol by Pietro Psaier (See Coloured Rain)
The Coloured Rain Gallery describes the work as "ONE DOLLAR BILL, AFTER WARHOL GRAPHITE ON PAPER 1962," yet further down on the description is a date of 1978. Assuming that it is a print rather than a painting (as it has an edition number), was it printed in 1978 or 1962?
Coloured Rain is also offering a Pietro Psaier table for £5,500 - described as " COMMISSIONED IN 1978 BY MICHAEL CAINE FOR THE LONDON CLUB:"
A Very Saxy Table by Pietro Psaier (see Coloured Rain)
According to the description on the Coloured Rain website, the table was "inspired by fellow Italian artist ARMAN, the work has never been recorded in Psaier’s catalogue raisonné, being prepared in Rome at this time." Arman was French, not Italian. Coloured Rain is supposed to be an art gallery. How could the owner of an art gallery not have noticed this? Excusing inaccuracies by saying that it was Nicholson who provided the descriptions does not relieve the gallery of responsibility for having the descriptions on their website. They are legally responsible for what appears on their site. The anomalies in the descriptions are so transparent that it's almost as though the person or persons behind these so-called works of art are purposefully trying to make fools out of the people who are selling them. (In the U.K. this is called "taking the piss.")