THE extraordinary spat that has emerged over the existence of artist Pietro Psaier has taken another turn, with auctioneer John Nicholson pledging to publish the catalogue raisonée of his life and work.
Is the Psaier legend a hoax, or did he really exist? Did he die
in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, and was he so closely associated
with Pop artist Andy Warhol that he could have been responsible for
creating a significant tranche of his work?
These are the questions at the centre of the dispute between Mr
Nicholson, who has conducted sales of Psaier's work, and the Warhol
Foundation, who guard the Andy Warhol estate.
In The Times on August 7, the Foundation and the Warhol
Museum dismissed any connection between Psaier and Warhol, saying
there was no mention of him in their archives. Foundation board
member and former Warhol associate Vincent Fremont, who was at the
Factory when Psaier was said to have been there, was quoted as
saying he had never heard of him.
But in addition to the dozens - possibly hundreds - of works he
has in storage, Mr Nicholson has a wealth of papers, documents and
photographs that together create a seemingly credible history,
pointing not only to the existence of Pietro Psaier, but also to
his close association with Warhol.
He further argues that Psaier's name may never have come up at
the Factory because he would have been known there as 'Peter the
Together with Jacqueline Chapman, who has spent some
considerable time researching the life and work of Psaier, he is
now determined to prove his point to the satisfaction of the art
world and publish the catalogue raisonné.
And he says he also has no intention of changing his plans for
the next major sale of Psaier's work at his Fernhurst rooms on
Hoax or not, Psaier is certainly an enigma. Although there are
several references to people who directly knew him, and at least
two individuals who saw him and Warhol together, attempts to
contact them have so far not borne fruit. And there are undoubted
inconsistencies with dates - was he born in 1936 or 1939? - and
Nevertheless, the sheer weight of material to support the legend
warrants extremely serious consideration.
Warholstars, the website dedicated to Andy Warhol's life and
work, have been outspoken in their criticism of John Nicholson and
have already dismissed the whole Psaier story as a scam to exploit
the Warhol name.
Their position appears unchanged, but they now appear to be
taking the matter more seriously and have published a 12-page
critique of Nicholson's web and catalogue content on the artist as
well as information from other sources.
ATG - the only publication to inspect the Nicholson archive so
far - are following a number of leads that have emerged as a result
of visiting John Nicholson's to see the art and documents. Here is
a sample of what we have found:
• A large number of works at Nicholson's that are impressed with
what appears to be a Factory verification stamp confirming them as
joint works between Warhol and Psaier.
• A large number of additional works, not linked to Warhol,
including architectural drawings and designs for cars, all signed
and some dated as early as the 1950s.
• An interview with Psaier, dated February 25, 1990, from the
now defunct Madrid newspaper El Independiente Jovenes,
complete with a photograph of the artist.
• A photo album of the artist at work - probably in the 1980s -
with the name Pietro Psaier clearly visible in the background as a
3-D logo mounted on the wall. The album also contains photos dating
back to the early 1990s of banners being erected around Marbella,
including on a bridge, publicising a Psaier exhibition.
• A leaflet for a private view to a Psaier exhibition at the
Hotel Ritz Madrid, including photographs of, and an interview with,
the artist and details of his links to the Factory and even John
Lennon. One of the photos is attributed to a 1993 issue of
Downtown magazine, dating the exhibition as later,
although it is the same photo that appears in the 1990 El
Independiente Jovenes article.
• Numerous independent print and web references to auction lots
sold, many through Madrid auctioneer Fernando Duran, and
exhibitions held - including at least one joint Warhol/Psaier
exhibition that is still taking place in Vigo - dating back to at
least the 1990s if not earlier.
If the enormous body of material seen by ATG is part of a hoax,
then it would appear to be on an industrial scale stretching back
decades and across several continents.
The evidence appears compelling to show that there was an artist
called Pietro Psaier, who created a vast body of work. There also
appears to be significant evidence of a link to Warhol and the
Factory, with Psaier contributing to Warhol's work, although
absolute proof of this continues to evade those looking for it.
By Ivan Macquisten