Appropriation and Authorship in Contemporary Art

British Journal of Aesthetics 45 (2):123-137 (2005)
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Appropriation art has often been thought to support the view that authorship in art is an outmoded or misguided notion. Through a thought experiment comparing appropriation art to a unique case of artistic forgery, I examine and reject a number of candidates for the distinction that makes artists the authors of their work while forgers are not. The crucial difference is seen to lie in the fact that artists bear ultimate responsibility for whatever objectives they choose to pursue through their work, whereas the forger's central objectives are determined by the nature of the activity of forgery. Appropriation artists, by revealing that no aspect of the objectives an artist pursues are in fact built in to the concept of art, demonstrate artists' responsibility for all aspects of their objectives and, hence, of their products. This responsibility is constitutive of authorship and accounts for the interpretability of artworks. Far from undermining the concept of authorship in art, then, the appropriation artists in fact reaffirm and strengthen it.


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Author's Profile

Sherri Irvin
University of Oklahoma

Citations of this work

Agency and aesthetic identity.Kenneth Walden - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (12):3253-3277.
Appropriation Art, Fair Use, and Metalinguistic Negotiation.Elizabeth Cantalamessa - 2020 - British Journal of Aesthetics 60 (2):115-129.
Minimal authorship (of sorts).Christy Mag Uidhir - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 154 (3):373 - 387.
In Advance of the Broken Theory: Philosophy and Contemporary Art.Sherri Irvin & Julian Dodd - 2017 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 75 (4):375-386.

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References found in this work

What is wrong with a forgery?Alfred Lessing - 1965 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 23 (4):461-471.
Self-plagiarism.David Goldblati - 1984 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 43 (1):71-77.

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