Workshop: Authenticity and Art

In general, we seem to have a preference for “the real thing”. We tend to like people who we find genuine. We tend to find authentic food more delicious. However, nowhere is this preference more apparent than in the domain of artworks. We look down upon copies, replicas, and forgeries because they lack the aesthetic virtue of authenticity. But why is this? This workshop explores recent advances in the cognitive science of art, and their philosophical implications.

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

03:30pm-04:30pm George Newman
04:30pm-05:30pm Gregory Currie
05:30pm-06:00pm (General Discussion)

Leeds Humanities Research Institute
29-31 Clarendon Place
Leeds, West Yorkshire LS2 9JT

The workshop is free and open to all. Please register using this form to help our event planning. There is limited space for dinner. Please make a note in the registration form if you would like to come.


Gregory Currie (philosophy, University of York)
“Authenticity and the Traces of Making”
Authentic Rembrandts are Rembrandts, and vice versa. What does “authentic” add? I argue that its role is metalinguistic in the way that “not” sometimes is. But there is a substantive issue raised by authenticity: why do people care about an object’s history? Newman and Bloom consider two hypotheses: Contagion and the Quality of Making. I suggest that there is a way of taking contagion which brings these two hypotheses close together.

George Newman (management, Yale University)
“The Valuation of Authentic Goods”
Why do people value original artworks more than identical duplicates? What explains consumer demand for celebrity memorabilia or luxury products? This talk explores the psychological mechanisms underlying people’s preferences for authentic objects. I will discuss the results of several empirical studies aimed at uncovering the key psychological factors, as well as broader questions surrounding the origins of this phenomenon.


The issue of authenticity and art has ramifications beyond philosophy and psychology of art. Nina Simon, the Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, recently highlighted some implications of this research for museum professionals in a blog post,

“In museums, we care about both perceived authenticity and real authenticity. We want the power of the story–and the facts to back it up. This can come off as contradictory. We want visitors to come experience “the real thing” or “the real site,” appealing to the spiritual notion that the personhood in the original artifact connotes a special value. At the same time, we don’t always tell folks that what they are looking at is a replica, a simulation, or a similar object to the thing they think they are seeing.”

This workshop thus holds interest also for museum professionals, art historians, and others in cognate professional and academic fields. All are welcome!


This event is a part of the Experimental Philosophical Aesthetics and Human Nature project workshops, supported by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action Grant PIIF-GA-2012-328977. It is also part of the Ethics / Aesthetics Seminar Series at the University of Leeds.

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