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art and authenticity

I recently had a lively discussion with someone trying to convince me that authenticity should actually be irrelevant in the pricing of art.

The argument to the effect that authenticity was tosh went something like that (though I still must read an article that I received promptly after this conversation): for a number of artists, it is established that there is a degree of uncertaintly as to whether a number of works out there really are theirs or not. Since we know that in such cases authenticity is actually unknowable, we cannot, legally, argue that authenticity was a condition of a purchase we made.

Well, OK, in such very specific cases, though I hardly thing the argument could be made general, and neither do I believe this particular gentleman would be very chuffed if his Picasso turned out fake.

And this also raises the question of the meaning of authenticity in the era of "big art", where artists often just come up with the idea and then direct large teams to actually make the thing - and bla, bla, bla.

Still, at heart, I must say I'm quite taken by the idea that authenticity is balderdash. On a practical level, if a work is exposed as a fake only years, decades or even centuries after it was created, why should this diminish the pleasure it gives people, and thus its value ? Conversely, if a work is suddenly attributed with certainty to a great artist, how should this mere knowledge increase the pleasure to be derived from this work, and therefore justify the higher price tag ?

Such a proposition may sound dangerously iconoclastic - but take this photo: who ultimately cares about the name of the bloke who pressed the button on the camera ? And didn't somebody once say: a rose by any other name would smell as sweet ? (kind or ironic, actually, given the controversy surrounding the authorship of the Bard's work !)

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