In Deed: Certificates of Authenticity in Art

In Deed: Certificates of Authenticity in Art, is a catalogue of artists’ certificates of authenticity from the past fifty years. It is a serious look at a little-studied phenomenon characterizing the trade, authentication, and aesthetics of contemporary art. The document guaranteeing authorship is hardly a twentieth century phenomenon. But the replacement of the artwork with the certificate, or the radical reduction of a work to the terms or conditions of its own making, is a hallmark of our own time. The composition of the artwork through legal, commercial, or literary language is a signature aspect of recent art. These certifying devices ostensibly take on supposedly neutral visual forms, known now as the “aesthetics of administration.” But the very composition of such documents, the “I hereby testify,” and “Certificates of Authenticity” forms, their pseudo-bureaucratic characteristic, and, often, graphic pizzazz, denote a singular and appealing form of work on paper. Interesting as graphic design, fascinating as self-portraits, self-branding, and self-advertising, certificates come in all types of guises. Some are executed by hand, others drafted by lawyers, and then there are the certificates that take the shape of form letters, to be filled out by the collector or curator, in the case of re-fabrications.

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