The Most Successful Painter To Never Exist

By Kristin Lovett on Sunday, February 23, 2014
Andy warhol pietro psaier
“I usually accept people on the basis of their self-images, because their self-images have more to do with the way they think than their objective-images do.” —Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

In A Nutshell

He was known by the name Pietro Psaier. He was a contemporary of some of the greatest pop artists to date, including Andy Warhol, the man who catapulted the genre into the public’s eye. The only problem is nobody seems to know who he was. He existed, certainly, or at least the name did. Many paintings are accredited to him, and his existence was acknowledged in a press release in 1963, which contained many details on his identity, such as his age, accomplishments, and relationship with Warhol. Otherwise, almost nothing at all is known about the man, and his existence is a complete mystery.

The Whole Bushel

According to a 1963 press release, Pietro Psaier was born in 1936 and is responsible for a very large number of works of pop art, the genre which Andy Warhol had popularized. It is stipulated that Psaier and Warhol were contemporaries and even alleged that they once had a love affair together. However, for someone undoubtedly so close to such a famous artist, almost nothing at all is known about the man. It isn’t too far-fetched to think that an artist is a bit of a recluse, and wants to shy away from the public eye, but the odd case of Pietro Psaier is much stranger than that.

There are very few photographs of Psaier, or at least the man identified as Psaier, and the most well known was taken with Warhol. However, there are very eerie discrepancies in the age of Psaier between photographs. For example, he seems to not have aged in the years between being picture with Warhol and a photograph dated to the ’90s. Perhaps the man just has amazing genes. Nevertheless, this lends to the strange ties that this man seemed to have with Warhol. Almost any time you hear about Psaier, it is in relation to Warhol, as if the two were very close friends and colleagues. But for a man who is so well known (Warhol) it seems mystifying that someone so close to him is essentially a ghost.

Even stranger is the man’s death. Allegedly he was killed in 2004, placing him at an age of nearly 70. He was reportedly killed in the tragic Sri Lankan tsunami, and essentially all evidence of his existence was swept away with the waves. Despite this, the church in which he was contracted to work in Sri Lanka denied his presence during the tsunami, or at any point at all. Everything stops there. There is little, if any information about Psaier after this point. The only real thing that is known is that someone going by the name Pietro Psaier existed in some manner or another, for his death certificate has been produced (though only made official in 2011) and several individuals have confirmed his existence.

What is going on here? Well, many people think that Psaier’s “works” are a part of an elaborate scam. The identity of Pietro Psaier was retroactively inserted into Warhol’s factory and life so as to sell bogus art at an astronomically high fee. While this does seem to be the most logical explanation, it does mean that someone has done a very good job of giving just enough information to build up a mystique, and still avoid accusations of a scam. Unfortunately, Andy Warhol is no longer alive to confirm or deny Psaier’s existence, and it would seem that no one other than the man himself could definitively do so. Whatever the reason, there is something very mysterious and eerie about the man called Pietro Psaier.

Show Me The Proof

The Guardian: If you want to distinguish art’s hoaxes from its frauds, ask a metadadaist
Pietro Psaier: Claims and Contradictions
The Telegraph: Andy Warhol’s mystery acolyte Pietro Psaier
Featured photo credit: Pietro Psaier & Andy Warhol