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An Art Collective is making us think about authenticity and the worth of art by mxing a genuine Warhol with 999 copies

Would you buy an Andy Warhol sketch for $250? Would you buy it if you know the sketch is priced at $20,000? And would you buy it if there’s only a 0.1 percent chance that the piece you bought was a genuine Warhol?

The pricing and authenticity of an artwork have been a real stickler in both the art community and the world at large. For those in the art world, we are always worrying and making sure that the piece we buy and sell are genuine pieces of art that are worth the thousands, even millions, of dollars we spend on them. But this is also where many, even art people themselves, poke fun at the absurdity of pricing something in the five digits range for a piece of paper with some scribbles on it.

While the collective MSCHF is certainly not the first to take this issue to light, they are certainly making the news this week because of it. After purchasing an Andy Warhol sketch from the Hamilton-Selway Fine Art in Los Angeles, the collective assembled a robot to precisely copy the linear sketch, which was then artificially aged. At a glance, the 999 copies are indiscernible from the real one. To blur the matter even more, each copy comes with two certificates of authenticity, one for Fairies by Andy Warhol, and another for Possibly Real Copy of ‘Fairies’ by Andy Warhol by MSCHF. (To note, the certificate of authenticity is issued by MSCHF, not the Andy Warhol Foundation.)

One of the copies (or the real thing?) of Andy Warhol's sketch, "Fairies".

Unless scientific testing was done, there is nothing to indicate which one of the 1,000 copies is the genuine sketch created directly by the hand of Andy Warhol.

“By forging [Warhol’s drawing] en masse, we obliterate the trail of provenance for the artwork,” the collective explained in a statement. “Though physically undamaged, we destroy any future confidence in the veracity of the work.” 

The authenticity of art has always been a big question mark the art world continues to deal with. Some experts believe that over 50% of art is fake. Of course, this doesn’t stop artists from copying art to sell to the less rich and fortunate. A village in China was once dedicated to churning out Western-style “masterpieces” at a fraction of the price. British artist John Myatt was once part of one of the largest forgery scams but now makes a career out of creating genuine forgeries. Same with artist Wolfgang Beltracchi

Was the collective genuinely making a statement about authenticity and the art market? Or is it just an elaborate prank they pulled? On the one hand, this is only a few shades different from the Pop Art that Warhol is doing. On the other hand, the collection of 1,000 copies were sold out mere days after it went on sale, earning the group a hefty sum of $250,000. That’s 12.5 times more than the $20,000 they paid for the single Warhol sketch.

Somewhere out there, there is a single lucky owner of an original Warhol sketch who paid only $250 for it. But they may never know of this fact for the rest of their life.

You can read more about this project  their websites, https://moforgeries.org/ and https://mschf.xyz/ 


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