Dutton’s Authenticity in Art

Authenticity in Art

Denis Dutton

A microcosmic synopsis

In his essay Dutton demonstrates that authenticity in art may be comprised of what we call nominal authenticity. This can be defined as the correct attribution of its authorship, or provenance of an object to it’s original creator, rather than that of a forgery. This ensures that the artwork is properly named.

The idea of authenticity can indicate something else though: the artworks character as an allusion to a particular set of beliefs felt by an individual or group. Expressive authenticity is second concept of the authentic.  Dutton discusses the ambiguities present in both definitions, e.g. are female actresses in a Shakespeare play inauthentic. Likewise he considers a piano based performance of Bach, or native aboriginal paintings made for the tourist industry asking, are they authentic?

To date my revision of the authentic has been base around two inter-related questions: Can computer art be authentic? And can a computer be an authentic medium for an artwork? The accent I have put on the word ‘authentic’ has been the sense of the genuine. Can computer art be considered an art work in the same way a painting can, or a sculpture can. The ‘authentic’ I’m probing is one of subjectivity and based on cultural and academic opinions.

In his thorough and informative essay Dutton has reminded me with his very objective definition of nominal authenticity, that in art, ‘authenticity’ can prompt a variety of different responses. Dutton manages to borrow from the Benjamin argument in, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ the notion that authenticity demands an original creator, and that a work of art must belong to a time and place of original authorship.  Given this myriad of meaning, it is critical that I ensure a viewer, or reader of my work understands the context within which I use the adjective.

Dutton, D, The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, Oxford, London, 2004

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2 thoughts on “Dutton’s Authenticity in Art

    • Dutton’s theory of Nominal Authneticity refers to an author being correctly attributed to a work of art, as opposed to say, a copy or a fake. We can say that Leonardo is the author of The Mona Lisa. Also, Nominal Authenticity can represent the ‘exactness’ in a performance of a work of art. Shopin can clearly not perform any of his works – he’s dead, but another can make a nominal performance of his work.
      Hope that helps.

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