What makes an original? – Conversations above the rooftops of Berlin

28. June 2023

New insights into the concept of the original in art – with a view of the Berlin summer sky: The first iteration of SALON SCHMITZ proved nothing short of inspiring. In cooperation with Hatje Cantz and Robb Report Germany, RALF SCHMITZ had extended the invitation to an exclusive exchange of minds in the stylish atmosphere of the new Penthouse Alexander-Berlin. Following a warm welcome and introduction by Robb Report editor-in-chief Gloria von Bronewski, art theorist Hubertus Butin opened the exciting discussion: What actually constitutes an original? A seemingly simple question with a complex answer, as the expert on art forgeries made clear – in a lively conversation, both guests and hosts ventured to take a closer look at what these complications mean for the art market, the legal system and even personal standards of value.


Gloria von Bronewski, editor-in-chief of Robb Report Germany, discussing “quiet luxury.” Left: Guest speaker Hubertus Butin, who published his in-depth book on art forgery (“Kunstfälschung. Das betrügliche Objekt der Begierde”) in 2020.


The term original, which is always used to refer to the authenticity of an object, has developed over the centuries into a prominent category of quality and value. But the term is not easy to define, as there is a large gray area in both the legal system and the art world, requiring individual evaluation depending on the case. Based on five questions, Hubertus Butin presented and discussed art historical, legal and art trade aspects of the original:

Does a work of art have to be executed by the artist’s own hand to be considered an original?

Why can works that were executed by the artist’s own hand sometimes still not be accorded unrestricted original status?

Is a posthumous bronze casting an original?

Why are pictorial reproductions sometimes traded as originals, and when is this justified and when is it not?

Can an artist declare a forgery to be an original?

Due to the problem with the original, legislation and jurisprudence as well as the entire art world are constantly challenged to review their own claims and standards – a complex task, which the guests of the SALON SCHMITZ faced in an inspired exchange.

Interesting conversations and lively discussions resulted from Hubertus Butin’s presentation.

From left to right: Friederike von Greve, Marketing RALF SCHMITZ; Gloria von Bronewski, Editor-in-Chief Robb Report Germany; Hubertus Butin, art historian and author; Richard Hagemann, Program Manager Hatje Cantz Verlag; Dagmar Hansen, Publishing Director Luxury & International Robb Report


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