[lit-ideas] The role of authenticity in the value of art

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2011 15:09:13 +0100 (BST)

This was one of the underlying issues in setting some 'real'/'made up' poems as 
a test in the Bad Poetry Competition; failure, to tell the genuine from the 
fake, might mean any number of things - from the poor taste of the judge, to 
the poor quality of the genuine article (perhaps even poorer than the fake). 

Here is an example in a musical context:-


"Yet the issues of forgery and undue anticipation by scholars, though not 
without interest, are only a small part of this story. Most scholars I've 
spoken to insist that the sonatas are forgeries. When I ask how they know, the 
answer is always the same: the quality of the sources is suspicious, ergo 
they're fakes. But what about the quality of the music?

This is the most delightful aspect of the whole debacle. Not a single musician 
or scholar is willing to say for sure whether, on the basis of the score alone, 
these pieces are by Haydn. Our musical culture prides itself on considering 
superstar composers leagues above their "mediocre" contemporaries; yet no one 
has taken a stand and offered either analytic proof or convincing intuition as 
to the derivation of these pieces. Nor has anybody raised the potent question: 
if someone can write pieces that can be mistaken for Haydn, what is so special 
about Haydn?"

While 'authenticity' may play a vital economic role in the art market (a 
marketable artist produces only a limited number of works, so proving it is 
among that marketable number may greatly enhance its value), from a World 3 POV 
it can hardly play any role in the actual worth of the art: the value of a work 
of art qua work of art (not qua commodity) must lie in the content of that work 
considered as a World 3 object and not in who its author was.

To invert the question at the end of the excerpt:- if Haydn is great and 
something is of sufficient quality that we cannot, by considering it as a work 
in World 3 terms, determine that it is not a great work by Haydn, then is it 
not then a great work on the level of Haydn? (Even if it then proves a 'fake', 
using tests of authenticity that are extrinsic to its World 3 content?). If 
Shakespeare is mostly great and a manuscript cannot be, in its content, 
dimissed as falling below the standards of a great Shakespeare play, then 
surely, _fake or not, Shakespeare or not__, it is of a par with a great 
Shakespeare play?


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  • » [lit-ideas] The role of authenticity in the value of art - Donal McEvoy