I don't like grand theories, since they usually end up either badly twisting the facts or having too many exceptions to be taken seriously. However, my own problems with authenticity and my personal experiences with non-Western cultures have forced me to think about this one in general terms.
It may be useful to think of some categories as being either 'craft/decoration' or 'art', with a continuum between them. Crafts serve almost completely to make one's environment more pleasant, or to serve some more or less practical purpose. Decoration serves often to make the environment more pleasant. A portrait may serve to add to the dignity of the dead or the survivors.
In art, self-expression by the artist or the consumer also become important.
Some cultures never seem to develop this concept of art. I know of no persuasive evidence of an artist's desire to make his presence as an individual felt before the Neolithic. In some cultures our concept of the artist seems to have trouble sustaining itself. Few medieval Arabs became famous or made their personalities felt in the visual arts. (A real or imagined iconophobia in Islam is not the problem: Iranian and Indian artists did make their presence as artists felt.) It would seem that cultures which are easily associated with 'humanism' also tend to develop strong concepts of 'art'.
It might be true that where art in this personal sense exists and is important, authenticity is also important, since the personal relationships among the artist, artwork, object portrayed and consumer are important. When Mucha's feeling for his wife, and our feeling for her, and our feelings about his feeling are all part of the poster, it may make sense that we are willing to pay much more for a lithograph pulled in his lifetime than for a reproduction. The original symbolizes for us, and helps us to imagine, his pulling the poster, and her sitting, and Salammbo as the object of desire. But why indeed should we prefer the original of a counter-culture blacklight poster? We may have good reason for preferring Rosalind Maingot's own print of another woman before her as Venus, but why indeed should we prefer a hand-printed astrophotograph of the Milky Way? The astrophotograph may exemplify one world's relationship to another, but the photographer's personality and mood would seem to have little to do with it, so what do we gain by knowing that his hand was in the trays in the darkroom?
Back to giclees. Could it be that a signed giclee, printed by the artist and portraying his favorite flower is indeed an original, while having a giclee of an accidental moiree pattern printed by a print shop and later signed by the artist is a marketing gimmick?
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