Authenticity of The Artist and The Art Object
Authenticity is a concept that has been studied in numerous different disciplines and it has been diversely approached and questioned. From the object to the person, from psychology to politics, from metaphysics to morality, from Walter Benjamin to Heidegger … there’s a long list of definitions and nuances to describe it.
When it comes to an identity level, I could endlessly talk about all of authenticity controversies and dilemmas. I could start by talking about the so-called “myth of authenticity”. Here, it takes the form of a romanticized notion that white media and Western ancestors have used to represent the culture from “exotic countries”. During the 18th century the ideal that Western cultures are corrupted and broken, and other, more humble cultures with simpler lives were closer to a more pure way of being, was integrated into the modern perception of reality. This is based on an unrealistic glorification of a time where change and transformation weren’t part of life. These days, this misconception is used as a marketing strategy for branding and tourism.
On another point, I could talk about how existentialists claimed that as an individual, we should question ourselves and our own values (after all, an unexamined life is not a life worth living right?). They proposed that one should distinguish the values that were imposed by society and the “genuine ones”. This perspective on authenticity is extended to the concept of “artistic genius”: the one who rebelliously breaks rules and social conformity, follows his “authentic self” and shows himself as a divine personality. Thankfully, the myth of the genius artist is outdated. Nowadays, we are aware that neither the Renaissance or Picasso Cubism began instantaneously with no precedents. There’s in fact, a context for each art or artist to arise.
““(…) their misconception–shared with the public at large of what art is: with the naive idea that art is direct, personal expression of individual emotional experience, a translation of personal life into visual terms. Art is almost never that, great art never is.” – Linda Nochlin
The concept of being truthful to our own values and beliefs (as the artist genius supposedly does) seems quite paradoxical. It presupposes that people shouldn’t evolve and transform, consequently placing adaptation as negative. The socially imposed values and our own coexist and are impossible to distinguish between. Considering this, there’s also the contradicting way the art market, in order to call attention to a suppressed culture, imposes their artistic minorities to embrace their authentic selves. This puts a value on their place of birth that Westerners are otherwise not obliged to. The authenticity expectancy limits the artist’s creativity and bounds them to the weight of their nationality.
Ultimately authenticity seems to me something between a feeling and an aesthetics and not a quality nor something quantifiable at all.
From the authenticity of the artist to the authenticity of the art object.
Forgery in art is as old as art itself. Art pieces have been copied and sold for the same price as an original for a long time… but as soon as the truth reveals itself that same piece, that was once loved and worthy, is suddenly despised and valueless. As the image became reproducible and democratic in the 19th century (with lithography and later on with photography and mass distribution) thinkers predicted the loss of value of these new forms of art.
Time proved them wrong. It seems that we don’t love originals just because of the specialness of it’s singularity. It seems that, after all, the price is not only related to the art piece but to the artist. Not only the physical contact that the artist has with the piece itself, but because there’s an active interaction to support that persona in specific. We care about the idea and the creative process of the artist. Nonetheless, some of us care about the artist being able to live and continue producing.
It’s unquestionable how much money is being circulated in the art market for the new mediums, and it’s due to changes on the core of the existing art market. The value of digital art is one of the ones that is the most surprising. In a time defined by the “copy/paste”, computer generated art cleverly defies this reality and finds new meanings to value itself.
Blockchain technology seems to revolutionize provenance (chronology of property) of art pieces in an incredible way. Due to its transparency, it’s possible to track all the transactions of the piece to the original artist. This proof of ownership legitimizes the authentication of a piece. In the crypto world, all art pieces and art owners are listed and registered in the blockchain. CryptoArt is the pioneer form of this technology but obviously any kind of digital art would be benefited. The same can be applied to object based art representing it with a Token. There’s even solutions like introducing a chip on the art piece that connects it to its line on the blockchain. Such reliable authentication is just one of the many contributions that this technology can give to the art world.
Despite the overwhelming amount of images distributed and of the “copy/pastes” around, it seems almost unbelievable how much money is being put in buying digital art. This whole new art market for CryptoArt and CG art is questioning and revolutionizing the art world in various ways. Even in the time of imitation and infinite reproduction of objects and images we, as humans still enjoy collecting. There’s always people buying art. The need for ownership seems part of our instincts. That’s a good thing for the artists!