Authentic Art – How Can We Tell?

Authenticity here is not about authentication, about verifying if say, Andy Warhol  actually made those Brillo boxes (or had them made) or penned that signature.  It’s about something that  is  maybe more elusive and difficult to verify. That is because this is something that is a case of ‘for the artist to know and the viewer to find out.’  But it may be the test of true connoisseurship, the real art of seeing, and sensing the emotions behind the forms, shapes and color.

The question is, did the artist make that piece with a direct cause in mind? Something external:  money, fame… a branding strategy, a  patron’s wish?  In other words, a sort of top-down process.  We are really getting into slippery ground here.

But let’s look at what the Nobel-prize writer Nadine Gordimer has to say about her fiction:   “If you are writing with a direct cause in mind, you are writing propaganda. It’s fatal for a fiction writer.”  Of course she is here referring to an artist’s political involvement.  But she is also touching on where real art should be coming from, I think. For her, writing is a process of  discovery, a discovery of the unconscious, of her own being; and in the process, she sees more deeply the world around her.

The video artist Bill Viola says that ideas for his art come from a sort of  “floating to the conscious of the unconscious.”

I wonder how many visual artists make (or would make) that same distinction:  the bottom-up or top-down  process of art creation? And is it possible for the viewer to find out from looking at the work?


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