The tricks and treats of the season have all been doled out as we step into November. But it wasn’t only Halloween that saw disguises in abundance: 999 paintings were also masquerading as something they weren’t. Brooklyn-based art collective MSCHF was stirring up their namesake mischief by reproducing just under a thousand copies of Andy Warhol’s Fairies and has disseminated the copies—as well as the original—for $250 a pop.
Part of MSCHF’s Museum of Forgeries collection, the group piece is titled as Possibly Real Copies of ‘Fairies’ by Andy Warhol. Cheeky, to be sure, and certainly in line with its proximity to Halloween, its creator’s innovative contexts for the mass-produced, as well as the mischievous drive of its fae subject matter. The sketch by Warhol, made in 1954, is a simplistic doodle of three stout, naked subjects, two twirling what seems to be a string or a jump rope above the third who is gracefully stepping beneath it. An unassuming piece that likely never expected to have such mischief realized on its behalf.
The original copy of Andy Warhol’s Fairies was purchased by MSCHF in 2016 for just $8,125. Dropping the individual price of it down to $250 has resulted in an absolute steal for whoever received the authentic Warhol, and has been no loss to the art collective. With every single painting quickly being nabbed up, they’ve made $250,000 from Possibly Real Copies of ‘Fairies’ by Andy Warhol and left their quizzical fingerprint on scores of collections.
“Ubiquity is the darkness in which novelty and the avant-garde die their truest deaths,” MSCHF state on their site. “More than slashed canvas or burned pages, democratization of access or ownership destroys any work premised on exclusivity…By forging Fairies en masse, we obliterate the trail of provenance for the artwork. Though physically undamaged, we destroy any future confidence in the veracity of the work. By burying a needle in a needlestack, we render the original as much a forgery as any of our replications.”
Possibly Real Copies of ‘Fairies’ by Andy Warhol is as rebellious as it is slick. There are certainly art world stunts that that reek of little more than money-grabbing and faux-iconoclasts, but it feels as though a genuine desire drives this scheme. With every participant being a knowing party in agreement to the terms of a painting of questionable validity, there is truly nobody hurt in MSCHF’s use of the trappings of swindlers. In a very large way, they’ve elevated this piece into being more than a rough sketch by a famous name. They’ve translated into an idea speaking truth to the contexts by which these forgeries were snatched up, and have hopefully had some in the art world stop to think about the forces that drive this industry.