Jon Hartley-Folz was our guide through considerations of what we expect from our art, through stories and situations that challenge our expectations about the works of art around us with respect to the ideas of authenticity vs. aesthetics.
He began with the case of reknowned forger Henricus van Meegren. He painted in the style of Vermeer, creating a beautiful work that expresses the spirit of vermeer. Except for the fact that he signed it as Vermeer. There is much more to this story. Read more about him here.
Next up was Michaelangelo's Pieta in st. Peter's basilica, in Vatican City. The sculpture only one signed by Michaelangelo and represents a Christ in the lap of a woman whose age was depicted as much younger than would possible. This peaceful rendering glows. In 1972, Laszlo Toth damaged the sculpture before being dragged away. He was committed to an Italian psychiatric hospital on jan 29, 1973.
Jon asked us to consider the questions: should the statue be restored? Does restoring the sculpture change the authenticity of the statue?
The Mona Lisa
The Mona Lisa has become the most reproduced image of artwork in history. The work's stature in increased when it was stolen in 1911. The painting has been restored throughout its life. In feb 2012, it was reported that the earliest copy ever known had been found in the vaults of the Prado museum. Museum official said it was almost certainly painted by one of da Vinci's apprentices alongside the master himself as he did the original. The copy has been part of the museum's collection for years but officials did not realize its significance until a recent restoration revealed hidden layers. This version is brighter, revealing details obscured by darkened varnish.
If the apprentice painted this along side the master, that implies that the Mona Lisa may have looked this when it was first painted, that this might have been Da Vinci’s intention. Jon posed more questions: if this was the artist's original intention, would you want to see the Mona Lisa restored to its original state? (putting technical ability to restore it aside) if you feel it should be left as is, are you respecting the emotion around the current aesthetic of the ml at the expense of the Artist's original intent? What constitutes authenticity?
Another example was the famous incident of the de Kooning drawing Rauschenberg erased, in 1953. Young Rauschenberg went to de Kooning’s studio and asked for a drawing to erase. After such a bold request, de Kooning searched for a drawing he really liked, to make it hard for Rauschenberg to do it. It took Rauschenberg months to erase the work. Click here to hear Rauschenberg discuss this . de Kooning had expected this to be a private matter between them, so he was angry when Rauschenberg made his erased drawing public. Ask yourself these questions: did Rauschenberg destroy a work or create one? Is the resulting work authentic? If you are like our lively group, the answers varied.
Jon challenged our expectations about what we expect from the art around us. There were no stock answers here. Each situation has to be questioned and considered on its own merit.