Inquiry Notice

A gallery supervisor poses for a photograph between Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers,1888 (L) and Sunflowers, 1889 at the National Gallery in London January 24, 2014. 

If the existence of the copy challenges art history, it does so because in the place of a singularity, a unity, an entity of one, it raises the specter of a hydra-headed multiplicity that threatens to fracture and disperse that unity. We could take the shop practice of Paolo Veronese as an example. During his lifetime and for many years after his death, drawings and paintings in great number, objects which Veronese himself had never touched, were produced under his renowned signature. The unity “Paolo Veronese” is challenged by this fact, since his physical and conceptual singularity as the origin, or author, of his own work would seem, by this evidence, to be opened up to doubt. And given our discipline’s obsession with authorship, with the status of the creative individual – with his intentions, his conceptions, his inventions – this doubt cast on Veronese as absolute origin of his own work is not, to say the very least, welcome… 

…Two responses to this challenge are, as I have said, possible. The first is to shore up the discipline by, in this case, refining the procedures of connoisseurship so that finer and finer distinctions can be made between the genuine and the second-hand, between origin and copy. The second, and this was what this symposium was conceived of as addressing, is to wonder if the very category of original – whether the physical original, or the singular author as origin – if these very categories are themselves far more fragile and open to question than it had seemed. It would be, that is, to wonder if the attacks on the cluster of notions – origin, original, originality – mounted by current theory at work outside the boundaries of the discipline of art history need to be taken seriously by that discipline. It would be to consider if the analysis termed poststructuralist and currently important to other fields of the human sciences might not prove to be important to our own as well.” Rosalind Krauss Originality as Repetition October Vol. 37 (Summer, 1986).

Two images of Ross Bleckner’s “Sea and Mirror” from filings made to New York State Supreme Court by attorneys representing Mary Boone filed on Thursday October 27, 2016. Right: Exhibit B from a 1996 invitation to Gagosian Gallery’s Beverly Hill, Calif. location showing of Bleckner’s latest work. Left: Exhibit C, The piece owned by Alec Baldwin.

“First of all, I should have said this before, your Honor used the word counterfeit and that’s a word that comes is not a counterfeit. It is not a copy. It is not a fake. This is an original work of art from a very fine and very well-known and a very long standing artist, Ross Bleckner, and I think there is really no actual dispute about common themes when they’re interested in a theme at a given time. That’s why Monet had so many different versions of the Cathedral Rouen and the Water Lilies in his garden. That’s why there are so many images of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol. And Ross Bleckner, as Mr. Baldwin, a Bleckner collector, clearly ought to know, I’m sure does know, works in series as well where he explores the same theme. If we looked at all of the other works produced at the same time as this, you would see marked similarities in the elements, the size, the color and so on and so forth.” Alec Baldwin v Mary Boone Gallery 654807/2016 Trial Transcript May 24, 2017

“Rodin also took advantage of the opportunities that multiplication afforded within a work, using the same figure in different positions: the inspiration for Three Faunesses (before 1896) was thus drawn from a figure Rodin employed four times on The Gates of Hell. Likewise, the male figures in The Three Shades (before 1886) were borrowed from Adam (1880-81, itself inspired by the pose of Michelangelo’s Slaves).The three identical figures, grouped around a central point, initially placed at the top of The Gates of Hell, were enlarged in 1904 to create a monumental independent group….”

“…Rodin’s innovativeness resided in the fact that this technique [casting] became a systematic part of his creative process. Thus for The Gates of Hell, Rodin made multiple plaster casts of figures or fragments of figures whose poses or modelling pleased him. Cast from the same original work modelled by Rodin, several of them appeared two or three times on the finished Gates, arranged in different positions so as to confer new attitudes and meanings upon them: Fugit Amor appeared twice, and later became an independent group (before 1887) , while one of the two figures comprised in this group turned into The Prodigal Son, a large-scale bronze of which was cast in 1905.” Musée Rodin Mulitples Fragments Assemblages.

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