News. Art. Books. Whatever the medium, the string that ties the creative world is society’s hunger for the “real”- a constant desire for something authentic. Authentic not in terms of fact, nor in terms of reality, but true in its legitimacy. It must be created by a real person, at a real moment in time. There must be proof of its realness – a picture, a signature, a stamp. There must be popular validation – interviews, biographies, pubic displays. Creation, evidence, validation: it’s a scientific approach to the huge world of creations and that is a big problem…
Too often, it seems that it is the signature of the famous artist or novelist that hugely influences our perceptions of Art. It is the signature that instills the feeling of a certain painting being sacred because it was touched by the hands of Genius. But what is Genius? Like the other big words in our vocabulary – Truth, Beauty and Courage for example – the definition of ‘genius’ is subjective. The general argument, of course, is that it is attributed to any work that is especially unique, especially intelligent. Something no one else has come up with yet. Something no one else could replica. That’s genius, right?
A work by Van Gogh or Picasso can fetch tens of millions because they were ingenious painters who changed how art can be created on a canvas.
A first edition book, or diary, holding the writings of John Keats or Virginia Woolf can be sold for tens of millions because their pen engraved their genius.
The musical instruments of Bob Marley or The Beatles are auctioned for millions because the melodies created with them were ingenious.
It is the name that determines a work’s value, its public reception, and it’s historical legacy. But imagine for a minute the name was removed. The “Monet” painting was just a painting. “Oliver Twist” was just a book. “Time after time” was just a song. The reality of human nature, is that perhaps the accolade of, what today is deemed, “great art” may not hold without the name. Take for example the world of paintings, where the casting of even the slightest shadow of doubt over a work’s authenticity and provenance sees a rapid decline in its value. The same situation is held for the literary realm, where copying the words of a well-known writer is an abhorred action.
We deem the world of fakery and plagerism a form of criminality, but what we don’t see is that it too has a level of genius to it. That fake painting, with the fake signature, has a very high level of colour and techniques to be able to fool society. The imitative piece of literature too has a brilliant prose style and vivid imagery. By no means, is “fake art” something to be encouraged, but the “fake artist” should not be disregarded so readily either. When we’re in school we try to imitate anyone great we come across: we want to be able to look like the great artists on the oscar carpet, give speeches like Martin Luther King, write like Ms. Austen, paint like Picasso and sing like Whitney Houston.
What this shows is that he names are just formalities; we imitate these greats not because of their name but because of their skills. Take away Martin Luther King’s name from his speech and it would still be extraordinary. Put a painting up by Monet without his signature and it would still be beautiful art. Our material focus on the who, what, where and when of art distracts from the art itself. Our reactions become limited to simple exclamations at the name that created it rather than contemplations on what the art is saying, how it is saying it and what it makes us feel. Art, no matter the form, serves to provide a space for perpetual contemplation of the world around us: it interprets, deciphers and examines reality in ways that the naked eye cannot see sometimes.
French impressionist Paul Gauguin claimed that “art is either plagiarism or revolution”. I say art is art, – no matter fake or authentic, copied or original every single piece has something to say. Every single piece is ingenious, regardless of whose name is on it.