Jed Perl is no fan of the appropriationist idea in art. That doesn’t stop him from writing a strong précis of the argument on The New Republic’s site as well as offering his own uncompromising dismissal. The quote runs long to do justice to Perl, not appropriate The New Republic’s content. What’s worth noting is Perl’s ability to draw the Koons balloon-dog legal case into the Warhol authentication controversy, citing art historian Rainer Crone along the way:
Jeff Koons, when accused of copyright infringement, tends to settle out of court. One has the impression that he prefers writing a check to actually discovering what a judge or a jury might have to say. But in his heart of hearts Koons probably feels that if Poussin became Poussin by stealing from Titian and Raphael, why on earth is he being bothered by questions of copyright and fair use? With the balloon dog case, he has decided to go on the offensive. Crone’s argument that “the rejection of authorship” can be “an essential feature of authenticity and originality,” although absurd to some, is not so easily refuted. One can, if so inclined, certainly find support for this view in the history of Western art. Don’t the gorgeously impersonal, porcelain-like surfaces of Ingres’s greatest portraits suggest a rejection of authorship? And can’t we see an act of appropriation in Titian’s wholesale incorporation, in his late Pietà, of Michelangelo’s Pietà? Those who are appalled by the very thought of comparing Titian and Warhol will argue that Titian’s embrace of Michelangelo involved a deeply felt salute from one master to another. But some will say that is precisely what Warhol was doing when, toward the end of his life, he appropriated Leonardo’s Last Supper.
I believe people who see appropriation as an expression of susceptibility are kidding themselves. And susceptibility, the sense of emotional connectedness, is what influence is all about as it unfolds in Western art, in the work of Michelangelo, Poussin, Delacroix, Cézanne, Picasso, and countless others. The chill of appropriation, with its emphasis on impersonality and anonymity, suggests not the great tradition but the academic tradition, a calculation about the past rather than an engagement with the past. Andy Warhol, for all that his admirers may want to portray him as a trickster, was more like the worst kind of academic artist, for whom copying is not the starting point but the defining point.
Copy Cats (The New Republic)