The Richard Avedon Foundation claims an unauthorized biography of the photographer includes hundreds of factual errors.
On Wednesday, a banner appeared at the top of the Richard Avedon Foundation’s website: “Foundation pushes Spiegel and Grau to immediately cease publication and correct the record; publisher says facts don’t matter.” The text refers to Something Personal, an unauthorized biography published by a Penguin Random House imprint, Spiegel and Grau, last year. The account of Avedon’s life—described as “part memoir, part biography and part oral history” by the book’s dust jacket—was penned by the photographer’s former studio director Norma Stevens and long-term book publisher and editor, Steven M. L. Aronson. But the Foundation is arguing that, despite Stevens’s close relationship with the artist, just one-third of the account contains about 200 factual errors. Some major points of contention are whether or not Avedon shared an intimate relationship with Marilyn Monroe, and if Avedon himself made an unsolicited call to the Smithsonian museum to offer a donation of his prints and negatives. While the Foundation’s list of errors is likely to grow with the help of an online correction submission system built into the site, the publisher’s lawyer, Matthew Martin, recently told The Art Newspaper that disagreements have emerged due to Avedon being “well known for embellishing stories or simply fabricating,” and that the Foundation has “no evidence” to back their accusations.