Wednesday, April 15, 2009

#ripplespark: What is the Value of Fake Art?


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@AdvaShaviv


Sometimes it takes experts to tell the difference between an original work of art and a fake one. Sometimes even the experts get it wrong. Sometimes we enjoy the fake no less - or even more! – than the original. What determines the value of a fake work of art? If we can't tell the difference, why should the value change? What is the value of originality?

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3 comments:

Marc Burgauer said...

Continuing from Twitter and not giving you too much time to find the holes in my argument, I can offer two views about art, though admittedly both based only on modest experience.
As an appreciator to me art is the complement to rational discourse. Where the latter allows me to explore and understand the world by intellectual means, art allows me to do the same on an emotional and intuitive level. As an executer of art, I try to express my emotional experience. If this evokes an emotional response in others, I would expect them to accept my artistry.
Art experts are a weird species in my view. On one side, their efforts in using rational discourse to prepare us for the emotional experience is commendable and we depend on it. Yet I often wonder if experiencing art is not dampened down once you have intellectually dissected the object of desire. And if we give them too much attention, they tend to get demanding.
You also ask about originality, but I disagree that this is a necessary element of art. Especially since it is very hard to pin point originality. As artists, we are the product of our influences, mixed up with the individuality of our experiences. As long as we're not speaking of copies of a digital accuracy, even a fake will carry a trace of the faker. And who's to say that this little difference could not be a spark for someone? I do believe that the desperate search for originality often leads astray, especially if it is interpreted as being "new" or being the first.
I found Denis Dutton's "Art, Beauty and Human Evolution" very inspring.

Adva Shaviv said...

Thanks, Marc, for your most challenging and thoughtful remarks!

As for originality, my first tendency is to give up completely, and admit that you won: I cannot think of any way to measure it. Also, it's true that even fakers can be original, especially when they don't fake a specific work of art, but a style.

Yet, and coming back to your first point - the ambiguous role of professional art valuers - I remember the case of the supposed child painter, Marla Olmstead. She supposedly painted remarkable paintings at the age of four, but the esteem was replaced with disdain as it turned out that it was her father who painted them. And why should that actually make a difference?

One professional answer was that artists don't create within cultural vacuums. Should the girl paint such paintings, it would mean she has extraordinary originality and creativity. However, the father has a vast experience and knowledge of various artistic styles; thus, the same works seem to be trite and boring coming from him. I was convinced - but - it is definitely not as simple!

1. As for originality: it hasn't always been regarded as an important part of art! In certain centuries, for instance, technique mattered much more. And I already agreed that originality is hard to measure, and can exist in fakes as well.

2. Oh... the professional evaluation. A very difficult matter in itself. I agree and disagrre at the same time: I don't think there is a real separation between our "emotional" and "intellectual" evaluation and enjoyment of art, though I understand what you mean. I think they are intertwined, and thus, we can always gain by deeper, more profound professional knowledge. But if we lack such knowledge? Does it necessarily mean that our enjoyment is lacking? An illogical instinct is tempted to reply: not necessarily. Illogical, since if more knowledge => deeper enjoyment, less knowledge (supposedly) => more shallow enjoyment. Only, I'm not sure that "more shallow" implies - lesser enjoyment.

So we're down to (if I didn't miss anything on the way): originality - what part does it, and should it, play in artistic/ aesthetic evaluation?
And: what exactly is our aesthetic enjoyment comprised of? I think this is the more challenging and confusing of the two...!

P.S. Thanks for the Dutton reference!

Marc Burgauer said...

Adva,

Glad we settled originality quickly .. oh we didn't!

I agree with your questioning of the art world's view of the "Marla Olmstead paitings". If they were arguing about talent, I think they'd have a point. But it's not art, if the work cannot stand on its own. Context is interesting if we want to understand more about the work, but it cannot substitute or even add to the work itself.
If an art critic cannot simply evaluate a work like this (http://www.painterskeys.com/clickbacks/images/woa/100504_marla_olmstead.jpg) by looking at it and it alone, then they don't know what they're talking about. (I'm not saying my example is art, I'm also not saying it's not art. I have only picked an image from Google. I'd need to see the painting to really form an opinion. But it's an abstract painting and therefore claims to be evocative. A critic should be able to interpret it on its own merit.)

I concede that my differentiation between intellectual and emotional experience is somewhat limping. I am not even a dualist! A better approach would maybe be to separate into the intuitive and the deductive understanding of a piece of art? I think art has to allow for intuitive access and be rewarding in that experience alone. If there is something to add by deductive means, then that can be enriching. But I don't think that musical understanding for structures and harmonics has changed my intuitive response to any piece of music. Because it's the intuitive response that will dominate my experience. (That might be more due to who I am. I don't know how many share this preference.)

I also don't make a link between art and "aesthetic enjoyment". For me, they are different things. I find some songs from Beyonce "aesthetically enjoying" (i.e. I find myself enjoying listening to them for a while), but I don't consider it art. I find Wagner in general terribly disturbing and displeasing, but I acknowledge the art. My intuitive reaction to Wagner's music corresponds to my deductive understanding of the artist and person, the context from which the music emerges. Just because I don't like it does not mean it's not art. It's powerful stuff, I cannot deny that.

I think I find aesthetic enjoyment where it "agrees with me", where it amplifies a state I can relate to based on my own experiences. Originality is needed to differentiate from other work. But both, aesthetic enjoyment and originality can be found in art, as well as in the banal. And therefore I don't think they are suitable criteria to "filter for art".

And as for the professionals, I am with Dutton: Art doesn't need critics, but critics need art.

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