Ron Rivlin, July 25, 2016
A fear among many art buyers, collectors, and museums is buying a fake work of art. With the popularity of certain artists and the high market value attached, forgers are always looking to strike. Currently Nira Levine is suing Woodward Gallery in Manhattan for forged certificates of authenticity for about 90 Andy Warhol works she bought in 2008, including Warhol’s 1979 Space Fruit: Still Lives portfolio. Levine says that the gallery has forged condition reports and certificates of authenticity to increase the price of each art work.
Levine found out about the alleged forgery when she saw that several condition reports of her Space Fruit: Still Lives were marked as inauthentic by the Warhol Authentication Board. This caused Levine to file a lawsuit against Woodward gallery about the authenticity of several works she has bought in the past. To which Kristine Woodward of Woodward Gallery told Artnet News.
Woodward Gallery emphatically refutes Nira Levine’s baseless and inflammatory allegations. The Spacefruit prints which Levine, an art dealer herself, purchased through the Gallery, were authenticated with a rating of “A” by the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board. The Andy Warhol Foundation has just confirmed those findings. The original Certificates of Authenticity were transferred to Nira Levine when she took possession of the prints in 2014. The prints themselves are additionally stamped with the aforementioned “A” numbers. Accordingly, there is no factual basis for her to now- or ever- claim that the prints are fake. It is shameful that Nira Levine would assert a dubious statement to the press when she in fact has obvious proof of her investment in hand (Rea).
What happens next? It is unclear at this point if Woodward Gallery and Levine will settle out of court or proceed to trial, but this scandal has hurt the reputation of Woodward Gallery, and previous clients have their works be re-authenticated. If the gallery is found guilty they will have to pay the $90,000 Levine said she over-paid, and any other claims she might ask for in court.
What does this mean for future buyers? Situations such as the case of Levine vs. Woodward Gallery show the need for a good relationship between buyer and seller. When you are spending thousands or millions of dollars on art, do not be afraid to ask as many questions you’d like. Research or learn about the piece you are interested in, so you can be confident in your buying and not intimidated by art lingo. Go to well known and reputable auctions houses and sellers. Large auctions houses have specialists who are experts on artists and eras to try to avoid scandals due to authenticity, price or restoration. And finally AVOID eBay which has been deemed an art forgers’ paradise.