The Academy's announcement for the exhibition of the Rudy Vallée sketch
[Update 5 July 2012: The RWA Bristol has now issued a statement saying that "The work has not been officially authenticated and the RWA do not support any claims of authentication by the owner." See RWA statement.
In July 2012, The Royal West of England Academy will be exhibiting the sketch of Rudy Vallée that was recently reported in the news as being an early work by Andy Warhol. The owner, Andy Fields, a professional gambler and director of a debt collection agency, claims that he found the sketch hidden behind one of five Gertrude Stein sketches he had purchased at a garage sale in Las Vegas.
The work is described on the RWA website as having been done when Warhol was eleven years old "and is full of the pop art motifs we have now come to recognise, including Warhol’s signature bright red lips, made using lipstick, and a typically pop art blocked background, coloured with green and orange felt-tip pen." But how can the background be felt-tip pen when felt-tip pen wasn't invented until 1962? Fields claims to have bought the work from someone who knew Andy Warhol's "carer" or "aunt" - Edith Smith. Warhol's brother Paul who grew up with Andy, denies that there was anyone named Edith Smith who took care of them as kids.
Despite the fact that felt tip pens didn't exist in the 1930s when the work was allegedly created and despite the fact that Warhol's brother has denied that there was anybody named Edith Smith in their lives, the Director of the RWA, Trystan Hawkins, says "viewing this portrait allows us to see the beginnings of one of the greatest art movements."
I first expressed doubts about the authenticity of the sketch in the April 2012 news. Mr. Fields responded by attacking me on his website but failed to answer many of my reservations about the work. Instead he notes "What Mr Comenas did not realise was that the piece had already been viewed by the authentication board who put their own unique reference number on the front of the picture. You cannot get any higher than the official Andy Warhol Authentication Board!" Yet, according to an email Mr. Fields sent out last year, the work had been submitted to the Authentication Board in 2010 and had been deemed to be "not the work" of Warhol.
Andy Warhol Authentication Board
Last year Mr. Fields contacted a number of people in order to get someone to back up his claim that the sketch was by Warhol. I have now seen some of Fields' correspondence. In an email from 2011 Fields says that he got a friend of his, Kevin Kostiner, to submit the work to the Andy Warhol Authentication Board in 2010 and that the Board gave it the number 110.107 and concluded "it is the opinion of the Authentication Board that said work is by another artist and not the work of Andy and the said work is not signed by him." Later, in the same email, Fields writes that he is "reluctant to send it to them again in case they stamp "DENIED" on it." But why didn't the Board stamp it with a "Denied" stamp the first time it was supposedly submitted? But if Fields hadn't submitted it, why would he claim he had? Could he have been trying to piggyback on the publicity of the Joe Simon case? On his website, Fields calls his Warhol introductory page "My Andy Warhol" just as Joe Simon called his website "My Andy Warhol." In his 2011 email Fields writes "I have mentioned it to experts in the UK and they seem to be of the opinion that it is real and have informed me of some rather unscrupulous happenings within the Andy Warhol Authentication Board." Is he referring to the accusations against the Board that arose out of the highly publicised Simon case which provoked a considerable amount of popular support? Needless to say, Fields does not identify the "experts in the UK" who are of the opinion that it is real. An expert is named in the Toronto Star account about Fields' discovery - Brett Maly from Las Vegas. But Mr. Maly does not appear to have any particular expertise in works by Warhol. I emailed Mr. Maly to find out the basis for the claim that the sketch was by Warhol but I have not had a response.
Despite claiming in his email that his friend had submitted the work to the Authentication Board in 2010, Fields laments in his "Andy Warhol Fact Video," that he cannot take the work to the Board to be authenticated because it has been disbanded. Fields' friend who allegedly submitted the painting to the Board on his behalf, lives in Henderson, Nevada where Fields owns a luxury home that he rents out to tourists. In one email I have seen, Mr. Fields writes about his friend "he was just interested in their [the Authentication Board's] opinion and finding out how much the picture would be worth as his financial situation was not and is still not good." But why would his friend's financial situation matter if the work belonged to Fields? Does the friend's version of events agree with Fields' version?
James Warhola, the nephew of Andy Warhol, has confirmed that the Warhola family does not think the work is an original Warhol. James is the award winning illustrator who wrote the children's books Uncle Andy's, A faabbbulous visit with Andy Warhol and Uncle Andy's Cats. His father is Andy Warhol's brother, Paul, who grew up with the artist. A statement from Paul Warhola follows this article.
1761 Arden Street: Fame Artist Inc.
In the correspondence from Fields that I have seen, Fields claims that he purchased a number of drawings at a garage sale in Las Vegas for $500, not the $5 that was reported in the press and on the news. He says he purchased the sketches from somebody named "Milton Longe" at a garage sale where Longe was living at 1761 Arden Street. But that is the address of a company called "Fame Artist Inc."
Joseph Carmichael from fameartist.com
The company is run by an 'artist,' Joseph Carmichael, who apparently also authenticates art - although it is unclear from his website what his qualifications are as an art authenticator.
Fame Artist Inc. also offers "certificates of authenticity & appraisal"
The website for the company is here. Carmichael's biography on the site, notes that "In 2010 he moved to Las Vegas Nevada. He spends his time running Fame Artist Inc. Buying, selling, trading fine art. And he is working on a new series of original paintings, drawings & sculptures to be released in 2012." He alleges that his clients include Liza Minnelli, Kay Ballard and Suzanne Somers. In addition to making art and authenticating art he also worked as an actor and dancer with "Disney on Parade" where his responsibilities included "shake hands with children."
Mr. Fields does not mention Mr. Carmichael in his public account of how he obtained the sketch. In his correspondence, Fields says he bought twelve pictures from Milton Longe at 1761 Arden St. for $500 and that Longe threw in five original pictures from Gertrude Stein because Fields was unhappy with the price. This would be a very strange thing to do as items autographed by Ms. Stein's are often worth more than that amount. In 2011 an autographed letter from Stein went for £875.00 at Bonhams.
Yet Fields would expect us to believe that Longe threw in five autographed Stein sketches for free. Stein was not known as an artist. She was a writer. How on can the Royal West of England Academy think that the following drawing is by Gertrude Stein:
Andy Fields holding up his alleged Warhol drawing (L) and his alleged Gertrude Stein drawing (R)
Surely the Royal West of England Academy would have access to an academician who is familiar with Stein's work and life who would be able to tell them that she was not known to do draftsman-like sketches of Hollywood movie stars. According to Fields in his 2011 correspondence the Stein sketches were of Milton Berle, Judy Garland, Bob Cummings, Mae West and Maureen O'Hara. But the Warhol drawing was supposedly found behind a Stein drawing of Hopalong Cassidy. He doesn't mention Hopalong Cassidy in his 2011 correspondence. He says the Warhol picture was found behind a picture of Milton Berle. I have already noted in my previous article that the signature of Stein on the drawing does not match the known signature of Stein, just as the Andy Warhol signature does not match Warhol's actual signature. Stein was a writer, not an artist. A statement by Gertrude Stein expert, Professor Wanda Corn, confirming that the drawing is not by Stein can be found here.
In regard to his alleged Warhol sketch, Fields claims in the correspondence I have seen, that when he got home from the garage sale, he noticed that one of the pictures needed to be reframed and when he took off the brown paper on the back of the picture he was surprised to see another picture - the alleged Warhol sketch. Yet, in the very same email he says that the seller, Milton Longe, knew that the Warhol sketch was behind the Stein picture because part of the Warhol sketch was showing when he bought it at the garage sale. He writes, "He [Longe] threw in the extra [Gertrude Stein] pictures and therefore it was not in his interest to try and negotiate a far higher price. I do believe though that he had virtually given up on life and knew this piece was behind the brown paper on another painting as it was partly showing." That's a lot of information for someone to find out at a garage sale. Sellers at a garage sale would not normally convey the feeling to a buyer that they have "virtually given up on life." If the Warhol sketch was that noticeable at the time of the sale, why didn't Fields notice it? Fields also says about Longe that he [Longe] is on the run from drug charges and that Fields hired investigators to find him. What were the names of those investigators? Can they confirm that Fields did look for Longe?
Andy Fields' websites
Armed Forces International, Airport International, Avonmere debt collection, Ice Diamond Poker
On his website Fields presents himself as "a normal bloke" who owns a company called Copybook. He writes, "It’s true that I run Copybook but we have never made a fortune and my wife and I watch every bill as do other families." There is also a Linked-in page for someone named Marco Faccini who lists one as his past jobs as "Sales Manager at Copybook Solutions" here.
But what does Copybook do? The website has a number of official looking photos - an airplane, an industrial rig, a cityscape etc. but what service are they actually offering? Fields doesn't mention his other website - Armed Forces International - which is another official looking site which is for "Military Suppliers & News." He also does a site called "Airport International." And he also runs a debt collection agency here. And a gambling site here.
In regard to the gambling site, "Ice Diamond" is Andy Fields' poker name. The name also appears in conjunction with Fields' debt collection agency, Avonmere, on a UK business forum page. The page begins with somebody complaining that they have received a letter from a debt collection agency demanding payment for an expired gym membership. The fifth entry is from "Ice Diamond" who writes to the distressed person "You know, exactly the same thing happened to me. I was scared but spoke to another debt agency who turned out to be really helpful. They don't all appear to be nasty. The one I used was called Avonmere Collections and they even contacted the other debt firm and got them off my back. They can be found by entering avonmere in google." It's the first time that I have heard of anyone being advised to get a debt collection firm off their back by hiring another debt collection firm.
Ron Fields Nutrition
The RWA Bristol press release for the July showing of Fields' sketch describes Fields in the following way:
About Andy Fields:
An Entrepreneur, Mr Fields has a range of businesses including a multinational online advertising sales group and nutrition company. Fields owns 148 wildlife paintings and plays professional Poker under the pseudonym “Ice Diamond.”
The "nutrition company" presumably refers to a company called Ron Fields Nutrition. Andy Fields is mentioned as having been a "Partner at Ron Fields Nutrition" in the "Past" section of his "Copybook" Linked-In page.
There is another Linked-In page for someone named Ronald Fields who claims to be the owner of Ron Fields Nutrition. On his Linked-In profile Ronald Fields also says he is Chairman & Director at Copybook, the company owned by Andy Fields. Ron Fields is the father of Andy Fields. His full name is Ron Henry Fields and he was previously also the director of Hopbine Trading Company.
Photos of Ron Fields appears on his Linked-in page. Ron Fields is also mentioned (and pictured) on Andy Fields' Ice Diamond poker site. At the top of the page is a Happy Father's Day message from Andy Fields to his father. The picture is of a bartender with Andy Fields. If you scroll down the page you'll find a picture of Andy Fields' father, Ron Fields, nicknamed "Big Chief Iron Man."
Photographs of "Milton Longe" can be found on a Facebook page and a Badoo page . As noted in my previous article, "Longe" says on his Badoo page that when he was younger he "partied with Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Leonard Sillman and Noel Coward at Studio 54 and other places." He couldn't have partied with Noel Coward at Studio 54 because Coward died before the club opened. Both Facebook and Badoo should have the i.p. details of the person who posted the profiles.
What is the name of the expert who says that the Warhol sketch is authentic?
Andy Fields does not name a single Warhol expert on his site who believes the garage sale Warhol is authentic. In "Fact No. 2" in his response to my previous article, Fields writes, "Mr Comenas is not right by saying that I did not refer to any Warhol experts in the reports. The bottom line is in every report and TV interview which I conducted I did name several experts but the reporters or TV stations chose not to include that in their reports. I had no say in this. If Gary wants a complete list of experts, I would ask him to take up my offer of visiting me." If he gave the names of experts in "every report and TV interview" why is he unable to name them on his site now? Why must I travel to Devon to see the "complete list of experts" when he could just name them on his website? Can the reporters who interviewed him confirm that he gave them the names of "several experts" who thought the work was authentic?
A recent broadcast by ITV Bristol, noted that "one expert backs him up but seven won't commit," but the report does not give the name of the "expert" who backs him up. Why is Fields so reticent to publicly name the "expert" who reportedly thinks the Warhol sketch is authentic?
Andy Warhol's signature
As I indicated in the article I wrote in April, the signature on the painting does not match Warhol's actual signature. A Daily Mail article claimed that "Audrey Giles, a forensic handwriting and document examiner, was asked to assess whether the signature on the work was Warhol’s and concluded there were key elements of it which confirmed it was." Fields has now discounted this claim. He writes on his website: "... Dr Giles told me that she would need 15 other signatures from about the same period to compare it to. Well, as there were virtually none on record for the time that is impossible." Then why did the Daily Mail report that Dr. Giles concluded that "key elements" confirmed it was Warhol's signature? Who gave the Daily Mail that information in the first place?
Andy Fields does not want to donate the work to a museum
With the exhibition at the RWA, Andy Fields is establishing a provenance for his work. I made the point in my original article that "In his video statement Fields also claims that he is not after financial gain and wants the work to go to a museum. Donating a Warhol to a museum is not very difficult. Has Mr. Fields rung the Museum of Modern Art in New York or the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and offered the work to them? If not, why not? If so, what did they say?" Mr. Fields responded on his website: "Fact 12. I did say in my video that I would like the work to be in a museum. The reason is because I believe it would be a crime for me to own such a historical piece in England, particularly when it would be un-viewable by the public. Therefore, I am very keen for it to be in a museum and I’m very pleased to say that several museums have been in touch to exhibit it. I never said I would like to donate it as I would like to remain the owner of such an incredible find as owning all the pictures may result in them always being kept together."
On the one hand Fields says "it would be a crime" for him to "own such a historical piece in England" and on the other hand he says "I would like to remain the owner of such an incredible find as owning all the pictures may result in them always being kept together." Although he implies he is not after financial gain, in one email I have seen Fields writes "Would you believe that even Mr Steve Wynn of Wynn's casinos has agreed to meet with me the next time I am in Las Vegas as he is extremely keen to acquire it." Any exhibitions of a work of art at a reputable museum could have the effect of increasing the value of the work. The Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh would, of course, be the best place to exhibit a painting of this type, yet the Warhol Museum is not interested in exhibiting it. Why?
The list of anomalies in the different accounts that Fields' has provided over time could go on and on - but the upshot of it all is that the Warhola family does not think the sketch is by Warhol and that currrent press reports do not name a single expert who thinks that it is a Warhol. This is in addition to the fact that the background has been described as "felt tip marker" and felt tip marker did not exist in the the 1930s.
1. ITV Bristol (Scroll down for video of broadcast)
3. Art Info
4. BBC Magazine