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Andy Warhol article in The New York Review of Books

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A long piece by Richard Dorment in The New York Review of Books on Andy Warhol.

That is very like the question at the heart of a class-action lawsuit brought by the film producer Joe Simon-Whelan and other yet-to-be-named plaintiffs against the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., and the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc., which is the committee that was set up eight years after the artist's death in 1987 to pronounce on the authenticity of his work. The case revolves around a series of ten identical silk-screened self-portraits from 1965 (Red Self Portraits), one of which is owned by the plaintiff and all of which the authentication board has declared are not by Warhol. The background to the case, which has become something of a cause célèbre among dealers, curators, and critics on both sides of the Atlantic, is discussed in detail in I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon), Richard Polsky's breezy memoir of the art market before the economic crash. New developments can be followed in Simon-Whelan's crusading Web site www .myandywarhol.com.

The Red Self Portraits are among Warhol's best-known works, endlessly reproduced in books about the artist and on exhibition posters. Based on an image taken in an automatic photo booth, the portrait shows Warhol's head and shoulders head-on and slightly from below, a pose much like those in two other important works from this period, the mug shots he used in Thirteen Most Wanted Men and the anonymous young man in his underground film Blow Job. Warhol presents himself as insolent and impassive, in the take-it-or-leave-it stance of the hustler or gangster. Out of register, like a color TV on the blink, the person in the portrait is a new kind of human being, one trapped in some fathomless, unreal televisual space, without physical mass or emotional depth. The dead, unseeing eyes in the self-portrait suggest that he was perfectly serious when he said, "If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There's nothing behind it."

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