Paper short abstract:
Why do people long for authenticated originals and look down upon fakes and copies? Why is a fake incapable of producing the same effects as an original? The paper investigates the mystique of authenticity through a series of ethnographic examples spanning from art and luxury markets to crime.
Paper long abstract:
Why do people long for authenticated originals and look down upon fakes and copies? Why is a fake incapable of producing the same effects as an original even when it looks exactly the same? Is knowing the difference crucial for us to be seduced by the original? If we, for a moment, bracket the art market's capacity to stash away the wealth of the rich in the originals, which may as well be part of their allure, we may focus on the modern magic of the authentic in an otherwise disenchanted world. What promise does the authenticated original hold for the buyer, consumer, or merely an admirer? In order to shed some light on these questions, the paper will indulge in a series of ethnographic examples from the art market, luxury market, sacred relics, the trademarks of criminal organizations to murderabilia. It will be argued that if we wish to understand the mystique of the authentic, we must take into account the ways in which it relates to the 'sacred' and to the 'sovereign.' Even in secular times, there is a desire for the sacred, one that can be satisfied, under certain conditions, by the authenticated original. This original is capable not only of representing the prestige and privilege of the subject who possess it, but also empowering the subject by 'setting him apart' from the ordinary and profane, thus also imposing order onto a chaotic world.
Art, Authenticity and Authority: Traversing the Power Struggles