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Artistic forgery

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M024-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Forgery in art occurs when something is presented as a work of art with a history it does not actually have. Typically this involves a false claim about the producer’s identity. Forgeries are most usually works in the style of the artist whose work they falsely claim to be, while a forgery that is a copy of an existing work is a fake. Forgery is most common in the visual arts, but is also possible in other arts, such as literature and music.

The main aesthetic problem that forgery poses is that typically no deception is practised concerning what we might call the appearance of the forged object (generalizing from the pictorial case). Thus the forger does not deceive us about the disposition of colours on the canvas, the sequence of musical notes in the score, or the sequence of words in the text. If we adopt the widely held view that aesthetic value is a function of appearance alone, we shall conclude that something’s being a forgery is irrelevant to its aesthetic worth; whatever false beliefs the viewer might be induced to have about the work, those beliefs could not affect an honest judgment of its aesthetic value. But in the art world it is universal practice to condemn forgery. If that practice is to be justified as anything other than artistic snobbery and the protection of prices in the art market, it must be shown that the aesthetic interest of a work is not exhausted by its appearance alone. In fact it can be shown that the aesthetic features of a work often depend on its historical features as well as on its appearance, and that these historical features are likely to be obscured by the deception that forgery involves.

Citing this article:
Currie, Gregory. Artistic forgery, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M024-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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