Art market

Warhol Foundation cast doubt on claims that artist worked with Warhol

UK auctioneer says Pietro Psaier worked in The Factory and died in the 2004 tsunami; his body has never been found


Representatives from the Warhol Foundation and the Andy Warhol Museum, Pitts­burgh, have cast doubts on a UK auctioneer’s claim that an artist (for whom it is conducting a studio sale) met and worked with Warhol in New York in the 1960s.

The auctioneer is John Nicholson. As we went to press he was preparing to sell 235 works by the relatively unknown Pietro Psaier (estimated range of £25-£15,000) on 24 September. According to the pre-sale marketing, Psaier worked at The Factory studio, “often collaborating on pieces with Warhol”. Such a collaboration would normally raise the value of an artist’s work.

The auction house says that Psaier was born in 1936 and died in Sri Lanka in the 2004 tsunami, after which “his body was never found”.

However, in August an article in The Times questioned both Psaier’s working relationship with the artist as well as his existence, citing comments from the Warhol estate, as repre­sented by the Warhol Found­ation. These doubts seem to have originated on the website, which details several pages of research into the situation.

Vincent Fremont, a board­member of the Warhol Found­ation who met the artist in 1969, and became vice-president of Andy Warhol Enterprises in 1973, told The Art Newspaper: “I have never heard of or met a Pietro Psaier. The only artists Andy collaborated with to make art while I knew him were Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Francesco Clemente and Victor Hugo.” He says, however, that “I might be forgetting some others,” but adds: “I was the executive manager of the Andy Warhol studio and I was aware of everything that was happening in Andy’s studio.”

The Warhol Foundation is not formally contesting the claims in the John Nicholson catalogue and has not complained directly to the auctioneers.

Matt Wrbican, archivist at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, told us: “I’ve worked with Warhol’s archives since November 1991, have looked at thousands of original documents within them, and I’ve never seen the name of Pietro Psaier among them.” He also accepts, however, that “it is certainly possible that some day we will turn up something in Warhol’s papers”.

“Psaier’s stuff has been at auction for 20 years—why are there suddenly questions being asked?” says Mr Nicholson. He has hired a researcher to prove the Psaier Warhol link.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'The curious incident of the artist who may have known Andy Warhol'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 195 October 2008