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Coleman, Elizabeth Burns, , . Aboriginal Painting: Identity and Authenticity
2001, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 59(4): 385–402.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes, Contributed by:

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.

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Lopes, Dominic McIver, , . Art Without “Art”
2007, British Journal of Aesthetics 47(1): 1-15.
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Abstract: Some argue that there is no art in some non-Western cultures because members of those cultures have no concept of art. Others argue that members of some non-Western cultures have concepts of art because they have art. Both arguments assume that if there is art in a given culture, then some members of the culture have a concept of art. There are reasons to think that this assumption is false; and if it is false, there are lessons to learn for cross-cultural studies of art both in anthropology and philosophy.

Comment: Lopes’ light and approachable writing style makes this paper very well suited for undergraduate teaching. It is an excellent study in philosophical method: the structure of all arguments is very clear, the challenged premises are individuated and the requirements for challenging them are spelled out in detail. One major advantage of the text is the way in which it exposes the Western-centric biases present in our views on non-Western art. Various problematic historical and current attitudes are mentioned and discussed, including the division between the West and the rest, paternalism, etc.

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Monseré, Annelies, , . Non-Western Art and the Concept of Art: Can Cluster Theories of Art Account for the Universality of Art?
2012, Estetika 49(2): 148-165.
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Abstract: This essay seeks to demonstrate that there are no compelling reasons to exclude non-Western artefacts from the domain of art. Any theory of art must therefore account for the universality of the concept of art. It cannot simply start from ‘our’ art traditions and extend these conceptions to other cultures, since this would imply cultural appropriation, nor can it resolve the matter simply by formulating separate criteria for non-Western art, since this would imply that there is no unity in the concept of art. At first sight, cluster theories of art seem capable of accounting for the universality of art since they (can) start from a broad cross-cultural range of artworks and nowhere seem to extend one conception of art to other conceptions. Yet cluster theories remain unsatisfactory, because they can neither avoid misapplication of the proposed criteria, nor clarify the unity in the concept of art.

Comment: Due to the focused character of this paper it is best used as a further reading, or a core reading in courses focusing on cluster theories or non-Western art. The first part offers an interesting discussion of the requirements which a successful theory of art should meet: it should be able to account for the cultural diversity of art. The critique of cluster accounts offered in the second part of the paper focuses on their Western-centric character. It can be useful to discuss whether they could be modified in ways which would allow them to stand against Monseré’s criticism, or whether it is in fact at all possible to formulate a definition which will be flexible enough to account for arts of all cultures, yet general enough to capture ‘art’ as a unified concept.

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