Coleman, Elizabeth Burns. Aboriginal Painting: Identity and Authenticity
Summary: Coleman argues for an ontological understanding of Australian Aboriginal artworks (namely, that they function as insignia that require authoritative endorsement) that can resolve disputes about the authenticity of controversial cases of Aboriginal art. More broadly, her article illuminates the ways in which viewing art as part of a cultural heritage can affect how we understand its authenticity.
Comment: This is a longer text that intersects with a number of other topics, including appropriation, art ontology, and the art-status of non-Western artworks. It could be used in the context of course units exploring any of those themes, or to raise them in the context of a unit on authenticity.
Yuriko Saito. Why Restore Works of Art?
Summary: Saito examines arguments concerning why artworks should be restored, which are couched in terms of a debate between “purist” and “integral/conservator” restoration. Purists believe artworks should only be cleaned, emphasizing the integrity of the material object, whereas integral restorationists are open to adding material to the work, emphasizing the integrity of the original aesthetic experience. Rather than embracing a particular side in this debate, Saito’s discussion reveals how cultural/historical considerations can be as important to the debate over restoration as aesthetic considerations.
Comment: This article offers a useful philosophical framework for thinking about the relationship among preservation, restoration, and authenticity. Using it alongside the following readings might be particularly good in inspiring further discussion: Coleman, Elizabeth Burns. “Aboriginal Painting: Identity and Authenticity.” Jeffers, Chike. “The Ethics and Politics of Cultural Preservation.” Young, James O. “Art, Authenticity and Appropriation.” Korsmeyer, Carolyn. “Real Old Things.” Karlström, Anna. “Authenticity.”