“Fakery” whether in art or documentaries is the norm but meaningless

It has become almost a cliche to say that half of all the art in circulation is fake.

Of course this is about art forgery where some painting or sculpture is attributed to some famous (but usually dead) artist. It applies in the main to paintings (and sometimes to sculptures).  But value and artistic merit are quite different things. The value of a painting may differ by many orders of magnitude depending upon the artist or the attribution of the artist. But artistic merit is entirely subjective. There is no intrinsic artistic merit in anything other than that perceived in the mind of an observer.

Art Forgery:

Fake artworks are not unique to collectors and buyers. Museums and art galleries have fallen victim to this problem with some cases being on an epic scale. For instance, the Étienne Terrus Museum discovered that 82 pieces of art were fake! The museum held a dedicated showing for Étienne Terrus with 140 pieces of his art up for viewing. It was unveiled that almost 60% were fake. 

Cinema can be an art form. Cinema documentaries though are always about telling a story purporting to be the truth. But documentaries in cinema are faked and have always been faked.

The New Yorker: Documentaries have always been fake

Already in 1895, the primordial documentary, the Lumière brothers’ film of employees leaving the company’s factory, was staged by the filmmakers. And the film that turned their invention, the “cinématographe,” into a terrifying spectacle, “Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat,” contains the definitive and enduring gesture of acknowledged mutual implication, the glance at the lens of the camera. ..

Rouch became the exemplary reflexive filmmaker, and his view of the cinema began with the notion of performance. In “Les Maîtres Fous” (The Mad Masters), from 1955, he filmed members of a Ghanaian sect whose rites involved elaborate, politically influenced play-acting. Soon thereafter, in his seminal feature, “Moi, Un Noir” (Me, a Black Man), from 1958, he recruited a group of Abidjan residents, who had emigrated from Niger, to act out scenes from their own lives—which they did not merely under pseudonyms but in the guise of movie actors and character (named Edward G. Robinson, Eddie Constantine, Dorothy Lamour, and Tarzan). Filming with lightweight equipment and no synch sound, he then brought them into a studio to add dialogue that, with the lapse of time, also became a retrospective commentary on their own lives.

All TV documentaries are story-telling for entertainment or for an agenda. They lie on the borderline of claiming to be art. They are all faked in that images are chosen or manipulated to fit a narrative. There is no wildlife documentary which is not in fact faked in this way. (It is worth noting that much as I may like the David Attenborough documentaries there is not a single one where the narrative is not determined long before the images and audio are stitched together to bolster the narrative).


How Nature Documentaries Are Fake from DSLRguide on Vimeo.

Fake art is not generally used to describe pieces of music or literature though fake attributions to famous writers or composers (usually dead) are not unknown. Plagiarism is quite prevalent in producing new works of music or writing. Photoshopping or manipulating of images and then passing of the image as unmanipulated is also a way of faking art. Faked cinema is not so common. Advertising and fake reviews of cinema are the norm but they do not constitute faking of art. Of course, fakery is sometimes involved in cinema purporting to be art but that applies to anything claiming to be art rather than being perceived as art.

I take the simple view that what art is lies in the mind of the observer and is entirely subjective. Fake art then is about deceiving an observer into thinking that what he is purchasing – or merely admiring – is something other than what it is. But that too is a subjective perception. Fakery and art are both subjective value judgements but they lie on entirely different axes. A perception of being art always implies a judgement of admiration.

If an individual perceives something to be art then whether it is fake or not is irrelevant. An individual who perceives something to be fake may still perceive it to be art and may even perceive the fakery to be art. Perception of value is an entirely different thing.

An individual whose perception of artistic merit lies in whether something is fake or not is an idiot.


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