Last year, I ran the following tidbit in an Arty-fact discussing the role "art experts" play in the million-dollar game of deciding how much a piece of paper or canvas with some paint applied by a famous artist is worth:
"Hanging on the walls of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, are 28 watercolor paintings collectively known as "The Canyon Suite," presumably by Georgia O'Keeffe. The museum was recently informed by the experts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington that the works would be omitted from the "catalogue raissone" of O'Keeffe's works. This decision slashes the value of the works from close to $8 million to virtually nil. Curators made the decision based upon the quality of the paper with regard to some of the works and stylistic considerations in others. The Museum is doing its own investigation and has already determined that the works in question did not ALL come for the highly experimental period or O'Keeffe's career, 1916-18, as had been previously thought. Add to this, the Kemper Museum has charged that the exclusion comes as retribution for their not having agreed to GIVE the works to the National Gallery last year. Those in Washington, of course, deny this charge. In any case, the art dealer who sold the works to the Kemper originally for some $5.5 million has offered to buy them back."
That was then, this is now. It seems we now know a bit more about the famous "Canyon Suite" watercolors. Of the 28, it would appear fifteen may be authentic Georgia O'Keeffe originals painted during her years as head of the art department at West Texas Normal College (now West Texas A&M). Ten, on the other hand, were painted by a young boy (nine years old at the time) by the name of Jacobo "Jackie" Suazo during the 1940s when he lived with O'Keeffe and helped her with chores around her now famous "Ghost Ranch." She gave him art lessons and "collaborated" with him in creating them. Three others, Suazo, now a retired former employee of the state of Arizona, claims to have done on his own at the time. When he joined the Marines in 1953, he left the watercolors, a packet of about 100 of them, with Miss O'Keefe. He never saw them again. After her death, they were mixed, accidentally or on purpose, with those O'Keefe did during the period 1916-18 and changed hands several times before being sold to the Santa Fe art dealer, Gerald Peters, for one million dollars.
After the brouhaha between the Kemper and the National Gallery erupted, Peters took back the disputed work and refunded the selling price as he'd promised. Suazo has inspected the paintings and identified those he had a hand in, and also filed papers claiming a copyright to them, hoping to cash in on reproduction rights. (No one even mentioned returning them to him.) Peters is having additional research done on the remainder of the "Canyon Suite" in hopes of recouping his loss. Suazo says he has no idea how his work (guided by O'Keeffe) got mixed in with the fifteen (apparently authentic) "Canyon Suite" paintings done more than a dozen years before he was even born. Maybe he doesn't, but I do. It had little to do with art. I think it had more to do with M-O-N-E-Y.