Crafting authenticity: The validation of identity in self-taught art

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161 Scopus citations


The desire for authenticity now occupies a central position in contemporary culture. Whether in our search for selfhood, leisure experience, or in our material purchases, we search for the real, the genuine. These terms are not, however, descriptive, but must be situated and defined by audiences. In this analysis, I examine the development of the market for self-taught art, an artistic domain in which the authentic is a central defining feature, conferring value on objects and creators. Self-taught art is a form of identity art in which the characteristics of the artists and their life stories are as important as the formal features of the created objects. The article examines the justifications for this emphasis and the battles over the construction of biography. My examination of self-taught art is grounded in five years of ethnographic observation, interviews, and analyses of texts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-180
Number of pages28
JournalTheory and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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