Fakes & copies

Letters: Copies are not the same as forgeries, writes artist Michael Herstand

A defence of the Helion 'hoax'

In The Art Newspaper (No.81, May 1998, p.5), David D’Arcy writes in his article “Will hotelier halt Helion hoax?” that “the Helions” turn out to have ben the work of Mark Herstand...” My name is Michael Herstand and I am the painter of the six Helion copies. For this reason I must ask that you print a correction to my name in your next issue. You might also pass along to Mr D’Arcy that it is inaccurate as well as inflammatory to refer to the paintings as “forgeries”, as he does in this article. The fact that these paintings are copies and not originals seems to be at the crux of the controversy and, therefore, the casual use of the word “forgeries” is irresponsible. It would be impossible to misconstrue these copies as originals were they to be for sale, which they are not. A cursory inspection of the paintings would reveal that they are painted on modern, machine-primed canvas, and that none is the same size as the originals (all six of which are catalogued).

As of 26 May 1998, the interior decoration of Nica’s restaurant at the Stanhope Hotel has been dismantled and removed (including the six copies in question) in preparation for redecoration. There are no plans to re-hang the paintings. I am sorry that Jacqueline and Nicholas Helion took offence at their existence, and for that reason alone I am relieved that they are no longer on view. However, in spite of the family’s objection, I firmly stand behind Shawn Hausman’s initial decision to use the copies as decoration in the context of his design for Nica’s restaurant. The copies were painted and the decision to hang them was made not without respect to Jean Helion’s art and talent.

Michael Herstand

New York

Apologies to Mr Herstand. He is, of course, quite right: a copy is not a forgery. Ed.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Helion: copies are not the same as forgeries'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 84 September 1998