On May 31, Frans Wynans Fine Art, a Vancouver art dealer and gallery, filed a complaint against the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in British Columbia Supreme Court for selling Polaroid photographs taken by Warhol of hockey star Wayne Gretzky in 1983. Wynans claims that in 1983, he signed a deal with Gretzky’s company to commission Andy Warhol to create six paintings of the famed hockey player. The complaint alleges that Warhol took an unknown number of Polaroids of Gretzky in a three-hour photo shoot that took place in September, 1983. Wynans further claims he paid Gretzky’s company $50,000, in addition to royalty payments, to license the artwork and also paid Warhol $175,000 to create it. The deal granted copyright to Warhol, but stated that both Wynans and Warhol needed Gretzky’s permission to “reproduce, restrike, utilize, or otherwise exploit the Art.” Wynans also claims that the agreement gave him the exclusive right to sell the works. After Warhol died in 1987, his works, including the Gretzky Polaroids, were transferred to the Warhol Foundation.
In November, 2012, Frans Wynans stated that he heard about a Christie’s auction that featured “four unique Polaroid prints” of Gretzky, which were sold for $9,000. Wynans claims that the Warhol Foundation breached the 1983 deal by directly competing with Wynans and refusing to deliver the photos before the were sold off.
It appears that Wynans wants his piece of the Warhol pie. After the artist’s death in 1987, the six Gretzky original paintings, which sold for $35,000, were suddenly worth at least $100,000 each and the silkscreen prints, which originally sold for $2,000, shot up $6,000. The complaint states that, “being fully occupied with the marketing and selling the Paintings and Prints, Mr. Wynans gave no thought to the Photos.” He was unaware of the continued existence of the photographs and feels he should be duly compensated.
Stay tuned for further developments as this case unfolds.