Monday, 18 February 2013

Problems with Antiquities as "Art"

In any case, if something is being sold as "art" what is "fake" is not the art object itself, its form, weight, surface texture, colour etc, but its attribution. A "mayan figurine" is the same piece of art whether or not it was made in Mayan lands or a garage in Croydon, it has the same decorative and aesthetic values. As a piece of art. A Caravaggio painting not by Caravaggio has the same decorative values, the same message as the real one, to the extent that the two may be difficult to tell apart, and when even the experts (so-called experts) cannot agree, then what is the point? What is the problem? In the end this whole thing boils down to money and getting back what the buyer "invested in art". But then the fundamental princiiple is to "buy what you like", not due to some "prestige" offered by what some dealer tries to tell you it is he is selling you.

But I think the problem is treating antiquities as "art" in the first place. Reducing them to geegaws to be gawped at is the root of the problem with the antiquities market. An archaeological artefact is above all an archaeological artefact, and we should be striving to retain in each case those archaeological values, while not denying that others see other values in the same item. An object's asthetic appeal and mystique (or whatever0 are in no way reduced by that object being associated with a documented history of collecting and long-term legitimate origins.  

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