Connoisseurship in a globalised art market: Reconciling approaches to authenticity

Clare Diamond

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    The circulation of forgeries within the secondary art market is an increasingly
    prevalent condition that betrays trust, damages reputations and distorts our collective cultural narratives. Interested observers of this phenomenon report that the transformation of art from object of aesthetic and formal appreciation to an instrument of wealth creation is the source of the problem. This has led to an argument that our preoccupation with art's commodity status has cultivated an atmosphere of opportunism and greed. In contrast, this paper argues that the commodification of art was a necessary precondition for its venerated status today. Larry Shiner is a scholar whose work challenges the accepted status of art as a transcendent, universal and inevitable cultural category, reframing it as an Enlightenment invention linked to the development of the free market and a middle class consumer economy. This contention provides the basis for my argument that a reconsideration of the relationship between artistic and economic values would bolster the art market's defence against the incursion of fraudulent art works. This article frames the integration of commerce and aesthetics in eighteenth-century Europe as the origin of the way the plastic arts are treated across the global secondary market today. Due to this historical context, visual art works that come to the market are assessed for attribution, authenticity and value according to a Western ontological structure, regardless of their cultural origin. By taking into account the historical and geographic specificity of art's ontological status, connoisseurs would be better prepared to make accurate and incisive determinations, preventing forged or questionable works from reaching the market.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)25-44
    Number of pages20
    JournalEras
    Volume17
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015

    Keywords

    • connoisseurship
    • art market
    • art forgery
    • ontology of art

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