The Original Is (Still) the Winner: Replicas and Fakes as Bound by Authenticity

Author(s): Alexander Geurds

Year: 2018


Authenticating relations are defined by artisanship, temporality, value-making and ethnographic authority. These relations are visible in contemporary museum settings as well as in the art world as such, and may be particularly poignant in the case of the Caribbean and Central America with its diverse manifestations of emotive styles and materials such as wood and stone. Historically deep and widespread, 19th and 20th century Central American trafficking of pre-Columbian things was tied to foreign-owned plantations and centred on San Jose, Costa Rica, leading to a scarcity of a ‘Nicaragua’ provenance indicator in current-day museum signage. Eventually, archaeology emerged from such uncontrolled collecting and now works to counter looting, yet market demand for objects remains stable. 

This paper explores the ongoing resilience of authenticity and its persistence in the global art market. I argue that this is in part due to the ascribed inspirational value Amerindian objects hold in modern art, as argued in the notion of primitivism. Primitivist art is seen in opposition to modernity, ascribing it legitimacy through temporal or cultural distance. With some exceptions, programs focussed on revitalizing artisanship and producing high-quality copies or working on stylistic and technical innovations are countered by rendering this primitive authenticity. 

Cite this Record

The Original Is (Still) the Winner: Replicas and Fakes as Bound by Authenticity. Alexander Geurds. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444920)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -92.153; min lat: -4.303 ; max long: -50.977; max lat: 18.313 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21224