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As an arts institution, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco endeavor to offer visitors experiences with authentic works of art. We take this responsibility very seriously. After all, collectors can easily buy reproductions, and the public is familiar with works created for tourists around the globe. The very existence of art museums supports the argument that an authentic work reveals something to the viewer that a reproduction simply cannot. Fakes and forgeries thus threaten a museum’s educational and inspirational mission. But in the 21st century, how do we define an authentic work of art? Because the Fine Arts Museums are relatively young by international standards, and since its collections continue to grow, the problem is of concern to the Museums’ curators and donors alike.
This mini-symposium is the third in a series addressing timely topics of particular significance to textiles and the arts of Africa, Oceania, Asia and the Americas. In 2010 we looked at ways in which scientific testing is being used to evaluate works of art. In 2011 we discussed complexities surrounding the concepts of ownership, cultural property, and provenance. This year, we will explore fakes and forgeries in the museum context and the quest for authenticity. Six experts will address specific museum case-studies that reveal the complexity and intrigue surrounding this compelling issue for curators, collectors, and dealers.
Definitions and Discernment in the Quest for Authenticity, presented by Christina Hellmich, curator in charge of the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas and curator of the Jolika Collection of New Guinea Art at the de Young Museum.
Fakes and Forgeries in the Marquesas Islands: A Long History, presented by Carol Ivory, associate dean for curriculum and instruction and professor of fine arts at Washington State University. Her research focuses on the arts made by the Polynesian people of the Marquesas Islands.
Tuduc: The World’s Most Famous Rug Forger, presented by Stefano Ionescu, an independent scholar of Oriental carpets and a leading scholar of Anatolian carpets in Transylvania. His most recent publication, Handbook of Fakes by Tuduc, will be the focus of his lecture.
Determining Quality in a "Royal" Kuba Overskirt: Changing Craft Habit or Pastiche? presented by Christine Giuntini, textile and organic artifact conservator for the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Giuntini will present her analysis of the materials and construction techniques of a “royal” Bushong overskirt.
The Authenticity of Mentawaian Art: A Perspective from the Field presented by Juniator Tulius, a PhD student at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies. His presentation will draw on research concerning notions of authenticity in the art of Mentawai.
Fakes, Forgeries, and Misattributions on the Pacific Northwest Coast presented by Robin Wright, professor of art history, curator of Native American art and director of the Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Coast Art at the Burke Museum, University of Washington. Her research, teaching, and curatorial work center on the native arts of the Pacific Northwest coast, in particular 19th-century Haida art.