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An Open Letter to Jacqueline Chapman regarding "Pietro Psaier"

This is in response to Ms. Chapman's statement headed "THE DEFINITION OF “BLACKMAIL” (v) To “Exert pressure on someone through threats” which appears at: http://www.pietropsaierartist.com/press.html. She issued her statement after the appearance of an article in The Sunday Times which can be found at: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article6814854.ece.

Background information can be found at: http://www.warholstars.org/pietropsaier.html. The "articles for deletion" page of Wikipedia in regard to Pietro Psaier can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Pietro_Psaier. The About.com page on Psaier can be found at: http://arthistory.about.com/b/2008/08/10/who-on-earth-was-pietro-psaier.htm.

* * * * *

Dear Ms. Chapman,

Normally I would send a letter through the post but as you have already written some rather negative things about myself in your online statement, I feel the need to also defend myself online. I bare no malice toward yourself or to the auctioneer who is also mentioned in your statement, John Nicholson. I have never met either of you and for all I know you may be very nice people. The closest I have been to John Nicholson is seeing him auction off some items on one of the episodes of the Celebrity Cash in the Attic program on television. I have never been to his auction house, nor have I ever met you. So I was extremely distressed by your comments and accusations.

You write in your statement, "For almost three years I have been researching the life and works of Pietro Psaier. This research has never been done before and is covering decades, continents, thousands of hours and miles, documentation and artworks. It is based on primary source evidence." May I ask in the three years you have been researching Psaier, whether you have ever come across a birth certificate? None of the press releases indicate a specific place of birth or a specific date of birth. In your statement you say "Having traced Carlos Langelaan Alvarez [Psaier's therapist in Madrid] I have interviewed him on four occasions. On my last trip I was accompanied by John Nicholson who spoke in depth with Carlos." Wouldn't it have been cheaper and easier to obtain Psaier's birth certificate rather than going all the way to Madrid to interview his therapist in order to prove that Psaier existed?

In a statement by the therapist which accompanies your statement, the therapist says, "I have released my preliminary psycholgical [sic] profile to John Nicholson and Mrs. J Chapman and a copy of his death certificate." Where was the death certificate issued? California, Sri Lanka, Italy or Spain? Given the controversy surrounding Psaier, why don't you put a copy of that death certificate online? On another site selling Psaiers, based in Haselmere, Surrey, it is stated that "As the value of Psaier's works increases, the world of art is expecting to see another steep increase in the price of his work when he is sadly declared officially dead in 2011."
(http://andantiques.bttradespace.com/ViewPost.aspx?ID=1)

But if Psaier is not to be declared officially dead until 2011, where did the therapist get a death certificate from? Was Psaier still a patient of his when Psaier was alleged to have died in the tsunami in Sri Lanka?

Although Psaier may not have survived the tsunami it appears that quite a few of his paintings did survive. John Nicholson, the auctioneer you mention in your statement, claimed to have sold "nearly 1,500 of Psaier's works since 2004" in an article in The Telegraph last year.
(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/artsales/3560720/Andy-Warhols-mystery-acolyte-Pietro-Psaier.html).

And there are quite a few Psaiers still being sold. Did all these paintings survive the tsunami or were they being kept elsewhere for storage? Where were they kept and how did they end up in the U.K.? And why were they only put on the market after Warhol's death?

Thank you for describing my website, warholstars.org, as "an intense site dedicated to Andy Warhol" in your statement. I like that description. The site is intense - and extensive. I have spent over nine years researching Warhol's life and I am proud of my efforts. If you go to the "About" section of the site you will see a sample of the publications that have acknowledged the site or used it as a resource.

In regard to your statement, there are a number of spelling errors which need to corrected - a small point perhaps but one which you can appreciate as a researcher. You have spelled Matt Wrbican's name wrong (the chief archivist for the Andy Warhol Museum) and have also referred to Vincent Fremont as "Vince" Fremont. You have also spelled "Wikipedia" wrong. You have also spelled my last name wrong in a couple of instances, including when you say, "During this time I emailed the Warhol Museum and Authentication board to ask if Mr. Comenas was acting on their behalf, this email was passed to KC Maurer, Treasurer of the Foundation who replied stating that the Foundation had never heard of Mr. Comeas [sic] and he did not speak or act on their behalf despite that Mr. Comenas regularly throughout the past year quotes and speaks as if representing them in some way."

I don't understand that comment. Throughout all this I have stressed that I am a private individual who does not speak for the Warhol Museum, the Authentication Board or the Warhol Foundation. In fact, my independence is part of my main argument. I do not own any Psaiers, I do not own any Warhols and I do not represent any of the Warhol organizations. I have repeated this fact time and time again. At least you are now recognizing my independence so I thank you for mentioning it. In regard to your quote from "K C Maurer," why should the treasurer of the Foundation know me? I have never had any financial dealings with the Foundation. My website and/or myself, however, are mentioned in the The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné (p. 408) published by the Foundation, as well as the Andy Warhol record cover catalogue raisonné (p. 15) and in the acknowledgments section of the first volume of the Andy Warhol film catalogue raisonné (p. 11) in addition to various other books on the artist. My essay on Warhol's Screen Tests was published by the Dia Foundation in Dia's Andy : May 2005 - April 2006 and, of course, I also moderated a panel discussion at the Southbank Centre last year with Warhol's superstars. My credentials speak for themselves. What are yours? Who are you, Jacqueline Chapman?

As you know I objected to the Wikipedia biography of Pietro Psaier and it was taken off the Wikipedia site because of lack of references backing up the claims being made. You say in your statement, "Having been unable to comment on Wikipedia Mr. Comenas then moved on to the Art History secion [sic] at About.com; part of the New York Times Group." But Wikipedia never asked me not to comment on their "articles for deletion" page. If you go to that page you will see that I made comments throughout the argument. Although the person objecting to a Wikipedia entry is discouraged from participating in the debate over deletion unless they have new evidence, I had new evidence which I presented during the debate and at no point did Wikipedia tell me to stop participating.

In regard to my comments on the About.com page, why shouldn't I be able to comment on that page? Do you not believe in freedom of the press? You write "When pietropsaierartist.com was published Mr. Comenas complained on About.com that a large part of the research site was attacking him. Anyone seeing the site can see that it is not so" on the very page on which you are attacking me! I've never attacked you personally. Why attack me?

In your statement you mention "blackmail," writing "Sadly there is a more sinister side to all of this. It has involved... blackmail of the monetary kind." What did you mean by "monetary kind?"

You also say that "Gary Comenas turned up at his [Psaier's therapist's] office one day in Madrid using the pretext to wish him well. Mr. Comenas goes all the way to Madrid to wish well someone he has never met?? Extreme pressure has been placed onto Carlos in the past weeks. Despite the press having been told of the situation regarding his accident and subsequent multiple surgery they, the press have been relentless in their pursuit of him for over a year since he made his first statement to us regarding his friend and patient, Pietro Psaier."

I don't know who turned up at the therapist's office but it wasn't me. I've never been to Madrid and even if I wanted to go I would be unable to do so because my passport has expired. I've not really needed one in the last few years because I like to take my holidays here in the U.K., but thank you for reminding me that it needs to be renewed. Even if I had wanted to visit the therapist I would have been unable to do so. It is, however, helpful that you at least have the support and testimony of the therapist. You are lucky. A lot of therapists would not give out such personal details about a patient because of patient confidentiality. From your point of view it must be very helpful having access to a therapist who is so willing to forego patient confidentiality to back up your claims. You can't really blame journalists for wanting to contact him given his statements, can you?

What we really need is some sort of documentation in regard to "Pietro Psaier" that can be checked and verified. You say that "you leave the public to make up their own minds based on solid primary source evidence that can be verified by a third party" but in the "three years" you have been researching Psaier you have not even produced a birth certificate, a specific date of birth, or even a place of birth. As a researcher shouldn't you begin at the beginning and first establish when and where Psaier was born? Will you at least put online the death certificate that the therapist says he gave to you?

In regard to your arguments with journalists, I'll let the journalists take care of themselves. They have a job to do like everyone else - regardless of whether they be from The Times, the Antiques Trade Gazette or The Daily Telegraph. Some of the reports in some of these papers were negative toward myself, but I certainly would not accuse any journalists or newspapers of "blackmail." They have a job to do and nothing in your account indicates that any of the journalists from The Times, Telegraph or Antiques Trade Gazette acted outside their remit of getting to the bottom of things - in other words of doing their job.

Now, don't you think you owe me an apology?

Best regards,

Gary Comenas
www.warholstars.org

p.s. You are listed as the "Producer" of the film allegedly being made about Psaier by PSI Films. Who has been interviewed for the film? When is it coming out?

 

Andy Warhol