Rethinking material significance and authenticity in contemporary art

Gordon, Rebecca Alison (2011) Rethinking material significance and authenticity in contemporary art. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information:


The traditional notion of material authenticity as being the physical and aesthetic evidence of the artist’s hand in the ‘original’ materials is outmoded. With the changed nature of art must come a
rethinking of the concept of authenticity. Authenticity was and is often discussed in relation to attribution, and is traditionally linked with the artwork’s material presence. This thesis questions that assumption, drawing on the literature of philosophy that describes authenticity as someone’s ‘true essence’ in order to propose the significance of the interrelation of the artwork’s multiple attributes to the work’s identity.

The artist’s voice has been a crucial source in this re-evaluation, with the voices of Scottish artists, or artists represented by a Scottish gallery or collection, building a picture of the way practitioners think about the significance of materials to their work. These contemporary primary sources have been contextualised with artists’ voices from published compendiums and international case studies. They have revealed the general pragmatism of artists’ approaches, particularly in relation to their creative processes. Therefore, this thesis has based its discussion around seemingly incongruous approaches: a conceptual framework and artists’ practices. However, these poles are reconciled by rooting the investigation at the point of the artwork’s creation. This has meant placing weight on the artist’s intentions for the work and his or her decision-making process, rather than the subsequent interpretations of curators and conservators that inevitably inform the artwork’s institutional afterlife. Doing so has led to a greater understanding of artists’ conceptions of material significance and their thoughts on the identity of their works. This inevitably bears implications for the preservation and display of contemporary art.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Keywords: material significance, material choice, material meaning, authenticity, authority, identity, artist interviews, artist's voice, replace, reinstall, restore, conservation, contemporary art, oral history
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: Hermens, Dr. Erma
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Mrs Rebecca Gordon
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-3041
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2011
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2015 09:36

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