Does an authentic Andy Warhol painting need to be painted by Andy Warhol? Why do audiences feel outraged when they find out that scenes from their beloved blockbuster documentaries are staged? Can people move past assuming that a diamond grown in a lab is a fake? What happens when a forged painting or manuscript becomes more valuable than its original?
This is a book about genuine fakes – the curious and complex objects that provoke these very sorts of questions. Genuine fakes fall into the space between things that are real and things that are not; whether or not we think that those things are authentic is a matter of perspective. Unsurprisingly, the world is full of genuine fakes – full of things that defy simple categorisation.
From stories of audacious forgeries to feats of technological innovation, historian Lydia Pyne explores how the authenticity of eight genuine fakes depends on their unique combinations of history, science and culture. The stories of art forgeries, fake fossils, nature documentaries, synthetic flavours, museum exhibits, Maya codices and Palaeolithic replicas show that genuine fakes are both complicated and change over time.
Drawing from historical archives, interviews, museum exhibits and science fiction as well as her own research, Pyne brings each genuine fake to life through unexpected and often outrageous stories. Genuine Fakes will make readers think about all the unreal things they encounter in their daily lives, and why they invoke the reactions – surprise, wonder, understanding or annoyance – that they do.
Lydia Pyne is a writer and historian, interested in the history of science and material culture. She has degrees in history and anthropology and a PhD in history and philosophy of science from Arizona State University, and is currently a visiting researcher at the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her field and archival work has ranged from South Africa, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, and Iran, as well as the American Southwest.