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When is a Warhol not a Warhol?

10 September 2004

Leading image bank Corbis is launching an Andy Warhol website this month, through which it will offer more than 500 of the artist’s famous works, including his soup cans and Marilyn images for editorial and commercial use, writes the Art Newspaper.

Unlike most other artists whose works cannot be modified due to copyright and moral rights, Warhol’s work can be legally altered by anyone purchasing a Warhol file from Corbis, since the Warhol Foundation, which represent’s the artist’s estate, has agreed it is in keeping with his artistic intentions.

Gary Shenk, vice president for rights services at Corbis, says the company does not represent other individual artists. “A big problem in making fine art a commercial proposition is that most copyright holders place onerous restrictions on licensees altering a work for commercial use. Because Andy’s art was based on the modification of other images, the foundation will allow almost any modification,” he says.

Corbis already represents the archives of Reuters, Condé Nast, the auction house Christie’s, and the work of pioneer photographer Ansel Adams, among others, and has deals with the National Gallery in London, the Philadelphia Museum and the Brooklyn Museum. The company’s revenue last year was around $140 million. Warhol, a household name, is expected to set new levels. “This is big business,” said a Corbis spokesman.

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