We often appreciate things that have a certain weathered look about them. From clothes to home furnishings, people find aesthetic value in the distressed, the tarnished, the antique. Yet underlying this interest in the appealing look of age is an expectation that vintage things be of their vintage. Knockoffs, fakes, and otherwise inauthentic things are quick to undermine what aesthetic investment we might have had in their aged appearance.
This response makes sense. If we value the look of age for how it embodies the passage of time, then things whose patina is fabricated rather than earned are bound to leave us disappointed. But if we elevate concern with this kind of authenticity to the primary reason for aesthetically appreciating things that recall the past, we are bound to miss out on broader opportunities for the aesthetic appreciation of history. We should not be too quick to dismiss the aesthetic promise of replicas, restorations, and other “inauthentic” things that can put us in touch with the past in ways that go beyond their simply having been there and sporting the wear and tear to prove it.
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