Until Death, Do Us Art

Andy Warhol has been pulling prints after 30 years in the ground. Based on an article published by Art Law & More, a Warhol acetate collection (clear plastic sheets used in the screen printing/serigraph process) is being used to replicate the iconic printed portraits of Mao, Jackie and Warhol himself.

What is so interesting here: the acetates were authenticated by the Warhol Museum, Warhol’s master printer Alexander Heinrici, and the late Warhol expert Rainer Crone, so the debate is not whether or not the plates are authentic, but rather, whether the artwork created by the plates could or should be considered a "Warhol". The printer, in this case, is Paul Stephenson: a dedicated fan of Warhol's print process having studied the artist's philosophy and technique for 7 years before acquiring the screens. At first, this appears as an abuse of the collection; a low-brow use of an artist's archive without their consent. "How could it even be considered a Warhol?" I think that Stephenson and others would agree that question hinges on artist's intent: Warhol's, but also his. In an interview in 1963, Warhol gave his consent:

“I want other people to make my paintings… I think somebody should be able to do all my paintings for me. I think it would be so great if more people took up silk screens so that no one would know whether my picture was mine or somebody else’s”.

Stephenson, as a student of Warhol's through study and practice, is using the screens as were intended to be used. As long as the prints are not being created with the intent to deceive a buyer (fraud), are being used respectfully, so as not to misuse and potentially harm the archival screens, and the artists diligently record their efforts (including attributing the pulls appropriately to Stephenson, et al.), I ask, where is the harm here?

Perhaps this is even an interesting buying opportunity for a print collector looking to add a little bit of debate to her collection?