a .004 percent chance of it being a real warhol!

Es­ti­mated reading time is 4 min­utes.

A RECENT NEWSLETTER FROM “THE HILL” in­cluded this teaser: “Have you al­ways wanted an Andy Warhol painting but never had the op­por­tu­nity? Well, here’s your chance (kind of). An art col­lector known as MSCHF ac­quired an orig­inal Warhol painting for $20,000 and is re­selling it for $250. Sounds too good to be true?” Well, it’s less than .004 per­cent true—a lot less.

First, MSCHF is nei­ther an art col­lector nor an acronym: The five let­ters are pro­nounced “mis­chief” (who would have guessed, right?) and is the name of a group of artists based in Brooklyn, New York. Founded in 2016, the group’s ac­tiv­i­ties are works of mis­chief that in­volve both art as a cre­ative human ex­pres­sion and art as a com­modity that is bought and sold by well-heeled in­di­vid­uals. These in­di­vid­uals are often in­vestors who might not even like art let alone like ac­tual artists, bought cer­tainly like pres­tige, no­to­riety, and profit.

MSCHF be­lieves that who­ever buys the au­thentic Warhol may never re­alize it.

In this case, they bought a simple drawing ti­tled Fairies, done by Warhol in 1954. Using modern dig­ital tech­nology and a ro­botic arm, they then cre­ated 999 copies of that drawing that ef­fec­tively look ex­actly like the orig­inal. This in­cludes the vari­a­tions in the thick­ness of the drawing’s line cre­ated by the vari­a­tions in the pres­sure of Warhol’s hand on his pen. 

The group used heat, light, and hu­midity to ar­ti­fi­cially age the paper upon which the new draw­ings were made. Then they mixed the orig­inal in with copies so that the orig­inal is lost among the fakes! While the project is ti­tled “Mu­seum of Forg­eries,” each of the in­di­vidual draw­ings is ti­tled Pos­sibly Real Copy Of ‘Fairies’ by Andy Warhol.

Then they mixed the orig­inal in with copies so that the orig­inal was lost among the fakes! Ac­cording to The Hill, “Be­gin­ning this week, col­lec­tors can buy one for $250 in an at­tempt to find the needle in the haystack.”

 

.004 Percent: primary figure from Andy Warhol's drawing "Fairies" from 1954.
 

But only one is real

The Hill‘s piece ends with a link to CNN, where a lengthier com­plete ar­ticle ti­tled “1,000 Warhol art­works are on sale for just $250 each. But only one is real” can be found. Written by Oscar Hol­land, he notes:

“The col­lec­tive be­lieves that who­ever buys the au­thentic Warhol may never re­alize it. While ad­mit­ting that an ex­pert might still be able to de­ci­pher the dif­fer­ence, [MSCHF] said the forg­eries are good enough to cast per­ma­nent doubt over the work’s provenance.

As well as com­menting on the sub­jec­tive na­ture of value, MSCHF hopes to make Warhol’s work ac­ces­sible to those who might not oth­er­wise be able to af­ford it. Ac­cording to [the group], the project isn’t only de­stroying the value of one art­work, it’s cre­ating an en­tirely new one that is jointly owned by all 1,000 buyers.”

To read Holland’s ar­ticle in its en­tirety, click here.

 

.004 Percent: first of four tiny reproductions of Andy Warhol's drawing "Fairies" from 1954.  .004 Percent: second of four tiny reproductions of Andy Warhol's drawing "Fairies" from 1954.
.004 Percent: third of four tiny reproductions of Andy Warhol's drawing "Fairies" from 1954.  .004 Percent: fourth of four tiny reproductions of Andy Warhol's drawing "Fairies" from 1954.

Museum of Forgeries

So I found my way over to MSCHF’s “Mu­seum of Forg­eries” web­site where they were selling Pos­sibly Real Copy Of ‘Fairies’ by Andy Warhol. The site plainly warned po­ten­tial buyers:

You are pur­chasing one of a se­ries of 1000 pieces, of which 1 is an orig­inal Andy Warhol, and 999 are forg­eries made by MSCHF. You will not be told whether the piece you pur­chase is the Warhol orig­inal (worth $20k) or a MSCHF forgery.”

Each copy of the drawing in­cluded a letter of au­then­ticity and pur­chase doc­u­men­ta­tion for the orig­inal Warhol drawing, along with a letter of au­then­ticity and doc­u­men­ta­tion for the Mu­seum of Forg­eries forgeries.

To read the Mu­seum of Forg­eries text in its en­tirety, click here.

 

.004 Percent: secondary figure from Andy Warhol's drawing "Fairies" from 1954.

A 0.004 percent chance

So, each drawing had a .001 per­cent chance (or one-thousandth) of being an orig­inal Warhol! I in­tended to pur­chase four draw­ings and have them matted and placed in one frame. That way, the four pieces would be, in ef­fect, one piece.  I would call my framed quartet some­thing like “A .004 Per­cent Chance Of It Being A Real Warhol!”

I as­sumed that the edi­tion would sell out even­tu­ally—after all, there was an orig­inal Warhol!—after which I would make my piece avail­able for sale. And to con­tinue the mis­chief, I would ask some gaw­dawful in­flated price for it! 

Now, I have “in­vested” in col­lectible records and re­lated ob­jects for decades, having bought and sold tens of thou­sands of items, I know al­most nothing about the world of buying and selling art. But I thought this couldn’t go wrong here.

While I might not “get rich,” I would cer­tainly re­alize some kind of profit while having fun along the way.

But I didn’t get to do any of this, as all 1,000 draw­ings were al­ready sold out . . .

I in­tended to pur­chase four draw­ings and have them placed in one frame and I would call my framed quartet 'A .004 Per­cent Chance of It Being a Real Warhol!' Click To Tweet

.004 Percent: large reproduction of Andy Warhol's drawing "Fairies" from 1954.

FEATURED IMAGE: This is the full Fairies line drawing by Andy Warhol in 1954. In 1956, Warhol was in­cluded in his first group ex­hi­bi­tion at the pres­ti­gious Mu­seum of Modern Art in New York. He also had two of his ear­liest show­ings at the Bodley Gallery in New York. He sup­ported him­self by doing art­work for book and record album covers.

 

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