A Vancouver art dealer is suing the Andy Warhol Foundation over some Polaroid snapshots of Wayne Gretzky that were recently sold at auction.
In the statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on May 31, Frans Wynans claims he hired Andy Warhol to paint a series of portraits of Wayne Gretzky in 1983.
Wynans claims in his lawsuit that as part of the deal he secured exclusive rights to use Gretzky's name, likeness and photographs Warhol took of Gretzky for the project.
Warhol died in 1987, leaving behind the Polaroids, four of which the foundation recently sold for $9,000 US at an online auction held by Christie's involving thousands of Warhol's pictures, prints, drawings and photographs.
Wynans is suing the Warhol Foundation for allegedly breaching the contract signed three decades ago.
Pop artist meets the Great One
The six new Warhol paintings were unveiled at the Mayflower Club in New York City in 1983, and one of the first buyers was Gretzky himself.
"I'm by no means saying that I know a whole lot about art. I buy things that I enjoy and I enjoy his stuff, and to be painted by him is terrific," said Gretzky at the time.
Gretzky and Warhol met for the portrait session in Warhol's New York studio in 1983. Gretzky was disappointed there wasn't a hockey stick around, so Frans Wynans, who attended the session, went to a sporting goods shop across the street for one.
According to Sports Illustrated, Gretzky hung his portrait in the dining room of his Edmonton home, not the living room as he promised in the clip.
As for Warhol, he was allegedly a New York Rangers fan, but said he appreciated Gretzky all the same.
"He's more than a hockey player, he's an entertainer, an entertaining hockey player," the pop artist said.
According to Sports Illustrated, Gretzky was unfazed by Warhol's professed devotion to the Rangers.
After Warhol'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 to $6,000.
Since then the value of Warhol's art has soared. His 1963 painting Eight Elvises sold for $100 million in 2008.