Industrialization and the advancement of technology brought a great danger to the world of fine artists. Their works were becoming easier and easier to duplicate. Some artists could even begin to produce more than one copy of their work. This caused a major switch in the way people buy art. The art gallery was no longer just for the connoisseurs. Instead, the availability of more copies of the work turned the sellers market of art into more of a buyers market. This also brought the issue to museums and sellers of finding out which works are commercial copies, and which are the legit art. This made many philosophers have to rethink how we look at art, and value its originality. One of the major questions at hand is: what is the value of a work of art, if it can so easily be reproduced?
“Originality and repetition, Krause argued, could not exist without one another” (Loh, 1). To know whether or not something is original, one must look into the past to see if it has appeared elsewhere in history. The two ideas are so different and yet they are connected. If there is no original work, no repetitions can be made. Newer post modernist ideas are cashing in on this relationship. These artists wanted to move away from thoughts of having completely original ideas, artist egotism. These artist believed that originality was false, and that artists get all of their influence from those who came before them, in a kind of artist lineage, or family tree.
A few examples of artist who fit into this gray area of originality are Warhol, Krause, and Lichtenstein. These artists attempted to create works that were either inspired by, or exact copies of another artist. Warhol is interesting because he has been known to display actual products in his galleries. In one gallery he had gone to a grocer and bought cans of Campbell’s soup to display as art. Warhol was interested in the idea of commercial art. He was curious about the packaging of materials, and what their implications are when they are moved from the home, or store, to a gallery setting. In this new setting people reflect on their purchases. His originality as an artist lies in the way he asks gallery goers to view the works. People are asked to think critically about the product, and its packaging. “He presented himself as a kind of empty mirror for the images that were already all around us in advertising or entertainment or packaging” (Sartwell 1). His ideas foiled that of the modernist artists of his time. He felt that originality had died, and the only way to pursue a career as an artist at this time was to remix the culture around him. One artist looks at his presentation of the Brillo boxes as the “end of art.” These brillo boxes were not bought like his soup cans. However the labels he made bared no difference from those one would see in the store. When Danto says this, he means that art has become self-aware throughout time. Art has now become philosophy, and he does not believe that the art world has any shifts left to take.
Lichtenstein is another interesting artist. Though he does not exactly copy the works of others, he uses others work as a springboard for his own. One of his works, Woman III, is inspired by a de Kooning painting. He uses his usual comic book color palette to create the work within his own medium, breathing new life into the work. This style of copying is reminiscent of music sampling. A viewer, or listener can hear and see where the influence has come from, but the new finished product has different life than its predecessor.
It is hard to put a value on something like art, especially when it is so easily reproduced, and not even considered to be original by the artist. However, art is explained by one philosopher to be like a “foster child.” This idea explains that nothing is art, until it is adopted as art. This can be on a personal level, or affect the shape of the art community. Museums and galleries search for artists and works to adopt as art in their galleries. The only thing that makes these works from any others is the fact that they have been recognized by an institution to be, in fact, art.