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Hamptons Life

Sep 1, 2008 4:27 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Lithograph maker says John Lennon exhibit is a farce

Sep 1, 2008 4:27 PM

A traveling exhibition of John Lennon’s artwork that stopped in Southampton Village last month is one of the largest art frauds in the last 20 years, according to a Florida lithograph maker who has been publicly questioning the authenticity of the exhibit since the late 1990s.

The serigraphs in the “Come Together” art exhibition may be authorized by Mr. Lennon’s estate, but “the dead don’t create art,” Gary Arseneau said last week.

Mr. Arseneau said that when he stumbled upon a Lennon exhibit more than 10 years ago he was curious as to how a busy musician could have put out such a volume of work.

“It didn’t take me long to figure out that the work was done posthumously,” he said.

A spokesman for Legacy Productions, which facilitates the Lennon exhibitions, said Mr. Arseneau’s claims have no validity and insisted that Mr. Lennon drew or wrote everything in the exhibition, aside from the photography.

Mr. Arseneau countered that if people found out how the Lennon serigraphs are made, no one would show up or buy anything.

“This is a money-making scam,” he said. “They’re not concerned about John Lennon’s legacy. They’re concerned about cashing in on a perceived legacy.”

Six years after Mr. Lennon’s death in 1980, his widow, Yoko Ono Lennon, hired professionals to reproduce her husband’s black and white drawings, Mr. Arseneau said. At best, the reproductions could be called “posters,” he said. They also include counterfeit Lennon chop mark signatures, he added. He said that any prints made from or based on drawings by the former Beatle produced after his death could not legitimately be called “original works of art by John Lennon” because he was dead when they were made by other people.

“The bottom line is ... they want the public to see and buy work that John Lennon himself has never seen,” Mr. Arseneau said, and that is being passed off as having been created by him.

Works have also been altered and put into new compositions, and Ms. Ono Lennon has colored Mr. Lennon’s black and white drawings, Mr. Arseneau added. “She promotes this posthumous colorization as a collaboration with her dead husband.”

Mr. Arseneau also said Lennon drawings published in 1964 are being passed off as works Mr. Lennon made for his son, who wasn’t born until years later.

“It’s just mind boggling that she would alter history for money,” Mr. Arseneau said.

Rudy Siegel, director of media relations for Legacy Productions, said the short response to Mr. Arseneau’s allegations is: “Do you really think Yoko is going to perpetuate a fraud?”

Ms. Ono Lennon is up-front about the fact that she decided to add color to many of Mr. Lennon’s works to make prints, and clients are always informed before buying any serigraphs that Mr. Lennon did not color the works himself, Mr. Siegel said.

He went on to say that Ms. Ono Lennon was there when Mr. Lennon produced the originals of the serigraphs. He emphasized that “Come Together” is one of the most highly attended and successful art exhibitions in the United States in the last 17 years, and he said 99.9 percent of purchasers have had no complaints about what they bought.

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"Mr. Arseneau also said Lennon drawings published in 1964 are being passed off as works Mr. Lennon made for his son, who wasn’t born until years later."

Mr. Arseneau is mistaken. John Lennon had a son with first wife Cynthia in 1963, Julian Lennon. But, then again, it seems Mr. Arseneau doesn't understand that a serigraph is actually screen printing. Of course they are not 'originals', they are screen printings of the originals, some with added color by Ms. Ono, which in and of itself ...more
By Sissy (1), Cleveland on Sep 18, 08 6:10 AM
Serigraphs are original works of visual art created by living artists. They would never be trivialized as a copy of an "original."

This is confirmed by "U.S. Customs’ “May 2006 Works of Art, Collector's Pieces Antiques, and Other Cultural Property - An Informed Compliance Publication. ” In part, it states: "The expression "original engravings, prints and lithographs" means impressions produced directly, in black and white or in color, of one or of several plates wholly executed by hand ...more
By gwarseneau (2), Fernandina Beach on Sep 18, 08 6:55 AM
This guy is an agressive nutjob who targets many well known artists and art exhibits as a way to get his name in the paper and promote his so-called "art"(check out his rants and raves on his blog). Wow, talk about too much time on ones hands. I highly doubt that he has ever even attended an Artwork of John Lennon exhibit. If he did he would kow that first of all, there is NO admission and any money collected at the door is by donation only and benefits local charities (Food Banks, AIDS research/help, ...more
By MadiPhi (1), New York on Sep 18, 08 5:27 PM
One legal definition of -ad hominem- is: "Appealing to personal prejudices rather than to reason; attacking an opponent's character rather than the opponent's assertions."

Source: P. 41, Seventh Edition of Black's Law Dictionary

Gary Arseneau
artist, creator of original lithographs and serigraphs & scholar
By gwarseneau (2), Fernandina Beach on Sep 18, 08 5:37 PM
I'm surprised that no one has sued this "connoisseur" for Libel.

"In law, defamation (also called vilification, slander, and libel) is the communication of a statement that makes a false claim, expressively stated or implied to be factual, that may harm the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government or nation. ..."
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libel

He's really treading on the edge with his website!

In my humble opinion his approach is less scholarly ...more
By Bill (68), North Haven on Sep 19, 08 8:26 AM
I would like to publicly express my sincere apologies to both Mr. Arseneau and the Press for my own peevish behavior.

My belligerence had no basis in fact and was primarily due to a "bad" day.
By Bill (68), North Haven on Sep 20, 08 7:53 AM
Hamptons Kirtan, Brenda McMorrow, John de Kadt