What Price Authenticity?
Authenticity is one of the great marketing buzzwords of the day, but walking around the preview of the Damien Hirst show made me wonder what we actually mean by that word.
This photograph (taken from the preview catalogue) shows a number of the works being created. On closer inspection, you may notice that the artist himself is not involved in the process. He makes no secret of this and I'm not here to debate whether that makes him an artist or a designer, but it raises an interesting dilemma.
This sketch and many others were exhibited in what was by far my favourite room of the preview show. It seems to me that it is clearly authentic Hirst. It's his sketching, his writing, his imagination and his signature on the front. I'd love to own it but can't afford it.
Oranges and Lemons is the piece that emerged from that sketch. It's got butterflies, manufactured diamonds, his signature (on the back) and it's clearly inspired by his imagination. I'm less sure that it's what I would think of as authentic, so I don't really want to own it and, anyway, I can't afford it either.
Received wisdom would have us believe that the more authentic something is, the more highly prized it is. But there's more to it than that. It's what the customer base determines to be authentic that actually counts and tomorrow we shall see what value is attached to authenticity. The guide price for Oranges and Lemons is £300,000 to £500,000. The guide price for the sketch is £20,000 to £30,000. Are butterflies and manufactured diamonds really that authentic?