Authenticity in the Visual Arts of the Modern Period

International Colloquium

October 27-28, 2011

Swiss Institute for Art Research (SIK-ISEA), Zurich

Institute of Art History, University of Zurich


Art history seems to struggle with its foundations. Some decades ago, postmodern art theory and practice suggested that authenticity and related categories such as originality, genuineness, naturalness etc. are obsolete. Copying, reenactment, simulacra and forging would overcome the idea of authenticity. However, this has not had a significant impact on the education and the image of artist and the procedures defining the economic value of art. Indeed, it is the increasing demand for authenticity that makes the crisis visible today.

What is the relationship between dissolving traditions and unchanged academic education? How is authenticity to be defined, if the artist’s self is overcome? What kind of legitimacy is conferred to the original and autograph in art history and the art market? What is the role of the individual artistic author, despite his supposed death? How can the postmodern loss of authenticity be described? How are works of art authenticated by relevant institutions? And what is their impact on the reception of art? What kind of strategies do female artists use in contrast to male artists? Is the crisis of authenticity a global phenomenon at all? The colloquium will investigate the criticism of the notion of authenticity since the beginning of the modern period and analyze what kind legitimacy can be conferred to the discourse of authenticity. The organizers of the colloquium invite interested scholars to address the issue with respect to the following possible themes:

1. Objects (original, autography, workshops, replica, reproduction, forgery, appropriation, authentication, etc.)

2. Authors (witnessing, true artists, originality, legitimacy, autobiography, education, etc.)

3. Reception (art history, aesthetics, media, institutions, collections, art market, museums, etc.)


Prof. Dr. Oskar Bätschmann

Dr. Roger Fayet

Prof. Dr. Tristan Weddigen