Is the DC JOHN LENNON Exhibition a Fraud?
by Hunter Gorinson
May 6, 2010
Last week, we wrote to tell you that an exhibition of John Lennon
artwork some of which would be available for sale was headed to
DC for a brief, three-day stint in Georgetown this weekend. Well,
don't pull out those checkbooks yet.
Shortly after posting, CultureMob was contacted by one Gary Arseneau,
an artist and forgery expert who has been tracking the very same
Lennon exhibitions for more than a decade. While promotional
materials for the Georgetown show entitled "In My Life" proclaim
it to be "the largest collection of Lennon's works on paper ever
assembled…[featuring over] 100 pieces of art created by John Lennon,
encompassing the years 1968 through 1980," it would appear that bulk,
if not all, of the show's "serigraphs, lithographs, copper etchings
and aqua tints" are much more recent. As Arseneau puts it," The dead
don't create artwork."
Detailing the perceived misrepresentation of the pieces included in
traveling show which has previously toured under a variety of
Beatles-themed monikers including "Come Together," "When I'm
Sixty-Four" and "All You Need is Love" on his website, Arseneau writes:
"[During] his lifetime, John Lennon -never- created serigraphs,
etchings, woodcuts and lithographs (with one lifetime exception
titled "frontspiece"). As with any original works of visual art,
original printmaking requires the living artist's hands on
gparticipation [sic] and can't be created posthumously."
The show's promoters, Legacy Productions in concert with Lennon's
widow and estate keeper, Yoko Ono have been putting on such shows
since 1986 and selling works dubbed "original" and "signed" for
Unfortunately, as Arseneau details in depth on his blog, the supposed
Lennon originals are actually little more colorized or otherwise
altered reproductions or, as the layman might call them, posters.
Moreover, the "chopmark" signatures they purport to bear are indeed
posthumous forgeries. By his estimate, there are more than 35,000
such Ono-approved pieces now in circulation all of which amounts to
what he calls a "$100 million fraud."
CultureMob contacted James Bracco, Executive Director of the
Georgetown BID, who are listed as "presenting" the DC exhibition
alongside Ms. Ono herself at a vacant M St. arts space, for a
response to Arseneau's allegations. He wrote by e-mail:
"While the Georgetown BID is assisting Legacy Productions on
promoting the upcoming John Lennon Art Exhibit, we are not further
involved in the production or organization, and therefore, are not
the appropriate party to provide insights or comments to this issue."
As of this writing, CultureMob has submitted a request to Legacy for
comment. In the meantime, for anyone thinking of taking in "In My
Life" this weekend should remember but two words: caveat emptor.
UPDATE: Legacy Productions spokesman Rudy Siegel issued the following
the statement in response to CultureMob's post this morning:
For the past 17 years Legacy Productions has worked with the Lennon
Estate and Yoko Ono to bring John's artwork to hundreds of thousands
of people around the country, showing the truly artistic side of the
former Beatle. Unfortunately, due to his untimely murder, John wasn't
able to publish his collection as he did with the Bag One Series from
1969. Ms. Ono has published his work posthumously as a way to
continue to bring John's legions of fans together to celebrate his
messages of peace and love, which these exhibitions have truly become.
Which didn't really address any of the issues raised by Arseneau. How
many pieces in the "largest collection of Lennon's works on paper
ever assembled" are actual originals, we asked, and not some type of
reproduction? Which seems like an appropriate question, given that
the show's promo materials boast that the show includes "rare works
from the controversial 'Bag One' suite signed by John in
"You're exactly right all of the pieces that we have on display are
limited edition prints. They are either lithographs or serigraphs,"
responded Siegel by BlackBerry.
"Originals are in private collection or museums now," he followed.
Oh. Guess that "Copies of the Artwork of John Lennon" subtitle just
didn't have the same ring to it.