The originality of artwork is a delicate and hot topic these days. From the appropriation of other artist’s works to the revelations and prosecutions of devious operations ( ), there is no end to the discussion which is why it was interesting to read the Art Series Hotel Group’s (a real estate group in Australia that purchases and displays fine art) plan for an art forum on the topic. They are approaching the topic in an unconventional way in regards to the competition ( ) they are offering that presents master imitator Tony Tetro’s Warhol’s, next to an authentic one by Warhol that will have guests guess which one is the true Warhol.

As explains, Tony created works for over 30 years that replicated artists such as Chagall, Rembrandt, Dali, and Rothko. Tetro's works were regularly passed off as legitimate works in museums, galleries, and auction houses around the world. Tony did six years in jail for using his “talents” and currently executes master copies for an exclusive list of elite clients from his studio in Southern California, which is topic for another discussion...  

Van Gogh original and imitator as presented by NOVA. Can you tell which is which?

Known for their elaborate promotional and forum ideas, such as their past event "Steal Banksy"; for this particular event, Tony was commissioned by Art Series Hotels to reproduce nine Warhol prints that would be hung alongside an authentic work by Warhol as a guessing competition for hotel guests. Whoever is able to spot the authentic Warhol will get to own the work, and for at least trying, the guests will be entered into a drawing for one of Tony’s. Tony’s art are to be clearly labeled by law with a definitive stamp, and in the company’s terms and conditions, they state that “none of these works must be entered into commerce or passed off as genuine by the winners.  The promoter shall not be held liable for any actions of the winner after they have claimed the prize”.

In an effort to promote the art forum, Art Series Hotels issued the following statement:

“It’s estimated that more than 15% of all paintings sold in the world are [unaccepted], and the namesake artists at Art Series Hotels are not immune.  With this in mind, we'll be hosting a forum on art [originality] on Tuesday May 15th with Tony and other industry speakers.

We consider [the legitimacy of] art a serious crime, and an issue often swept under the carpet.  We are hoping this project stimulates discussion around [the legitimacy of] art and its impact. What does it mean for the industry, what's the impact on the artists, how can you pick an [unaccepted artwork] from a real [one], what value do we actually place on art?”

It is certainly an engaging way to promote the issue, but is it the right way? One speaker pulled out of the forum after learning about the competition, and the Warhol Foundation is appalled at the decision to promote Tony’s art as items of value. There are fun and interesting ways to educate individuals on the seriousness surrounding the legitimacy of art and the impact it has on the market, but this I feel is crossing a line. The promotion and introduction of unaccepted works onto the market and the statement the competition is making about the value of them is deplorable, and whatever you, the reader may think, the Art Series Hotel Group is at least succeeding in their goal of creating a discussion about the topic which is one that needs to be addressed although maybe not in such a creative way.

Information obtained from:

The Fake Warhols Used as Prizes to Promote an Art Forgery Forum in Australia by Nicholas Forrest

Art Series Hotel Website