Cabinet of Curiosities #1: Fake Warhol

Immi Marsh

Roll up, roll up! The first in our cabinet of curiosities series is brought to you by Brooklyn-based collective MSCHF (pronounced Mischief) for their latest artistic tinkering. Behold, fake Andy Warhol. Whether you’re an art-collecting connoisseur, the next Damen Hirst, or simply don’t have a creative bone in your body, this act of tomfoolery will fascinate, or infuriate, even the most creative-averse.

An original 1954 drawing by the master of pop-art Andy Warhol, titled Fairies, was bought by the MSCHF pranksters for $20,000, who, up to their usual antics decided to recreate 999 exact replicas as part of the collective’s Museum of Forgeries project. Then in the most unusual of art lotteries, they hid the real deal amongst the fakes and put all 1000 ‘Possibly Real Copy of ‘Fairies’ by Andy Warhol’ up for sale for $250 each.

The very big catch? You’ll never know if you got the original. Any record of which piece the original is within the set was destroyed, along with MSCHF’s integrity, rendering Warhol’s work of art no more valuable than the fakes. And any buyers out there hell-bent on trying to reveal the original will be met with only frustration, as all of the 999 prints were put through a ‘degradation’ process to prevent chemical analysis.

It’s a clever and elaborate mockery on authenticity in the capital-A Art world – an industry that imbues authenticity with illustrious magnitude. But it’s a revolt against the establishment that Warhol himself would have been celebrating from beyond the grave. His obsession with the growing consumerism of the 20th Century totally challenged conventional notions of art: by mimicking mass-produced icons of American pop-culture such as the infamous Campbell’s Tomato Soup, he proved that you could also turn art into a consumer product, rendering it as meaningless as the tin of soup itself.

Earlier this year the collective gained notoriety when they were met with a copyright infringement lawsuit from none other than sportwear giant Nike. MSCHF’s Satan Shoes drop which sold out in less than a minute and was promoted by rapper Lil Nas X, saw the collective alter 666 devilish pairs of Air Max 97 shoes which they infused with a drop of real human blood - making the Warhol forgeries somewhat pale into tame normality.

Why do we love Fake Warhol?

Human behaviour never fails to amaze. We’re crazy enough to enter into an art lottery, that technically speaking, has no prize - which quite frankly, says quite a lot about us and our obsession with authenticity. But it also speaks volumes about our love of storytelling, because, what a pretty damn cool story your print would tell. Of course, the never-knowing if you got the real deal is undoubtedly mind-bendingly frustrating, but someone out there in this world right now is indeed sat pondering a $20,000 original hanging modestly on their wall, absolutely unbeknownst to them.

Arriving hot on the heels of the NFT hype, the Fake Warhol stunt continues to send the cat amongst the pigeons in the battle between authenticity and aesthetics. But what MSCHF have succeeded in doing - and art critics, cover your ears now - is wiping the rulebook by destroying the concept of authenticity. In doing so, they’ve essentially turned all one thousand pieces into the real deal, giving 1000 people the very implausible chance to own a real Warhol, and for that, we applaud them.





5 min09 Nov 21