Friday, September 29, 2023

Are 3D Replicas the End of Authenticity?


The Van Gogh Museum, in partnership with Fujifilm, has created 3D reproductions of Van Gogh paintings using a technique called Reliefography. The technique combines 3D scanning of the painting and a high-resolution print. The reproduction, called a Relievo, consists of a high quality reproduction of the front and back of the painting. It even includes the frame. The Relievos look so much like the original paintings that only an expert or a true connoisseur can see the difference.


No copyright issue here (Van Gogh’s are in the public domain), but what is interesting is the question of whether we will eventually get reproductions of artworks so precise that any question of “authenticity” will go out the window. By this I mean not the commercial-practical value of an authentic work (provenance, certificate of authenticity, etc.), but more so the philosophical question of what constitutes the venerated art object? This is not that new, some humans have been creating stellar replicas of so-called masterpieces (see also Eric Doeringer’s and Alfred Steiner’s work), but if we now have sanctioned digital copies fabricated with top-notch technical precision, what is it about the artwork that makes it a masterpiece?

We may finally have the death of the aura, almost 80 years since Walter Benjamin first wrote about it, and conclude that in this day-and-age it is the name and brand of the artist that impregnates the artwork with its authenticity.


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