Authenticating Authenticity

by Michael Drew on April 23, 2014

Michael Drew · Authenticity · April 23, 2014

Can you build a network of “authentic” people? Can you authenticate authenticity in some way?

Some people think so. Sunday’s New York Times “Styles” section profiled a young woman, Katie Longmyer, who calls herself a “business artist,” and who organizes parties and openings and events to bring corporate folks and creative folk together. So they’re at least in the same physical space for a while if not on the same wavelength.

As the article says, “companies are eager to harness the ‘authenticity’ of young artists, but they lack access to those subcultures. Artists, meanwhile, want a platform for their work, but they don’t want to be co-opted or accused of selling out.” (You can read the full article here:)

So basically, Longmyer is a party organizer but one working under a new name. In any event, everyone needs to earn a living. And everyone looks for a way to stand out. But what kind of authenticity are we talking about here? Corporate authenticity? Of what sort? Credibility? Because some artist is willing to take corporate money? That makes an artist more viable, perhaps, at least financially. (Nothing wrong with that – everyone has to earn a living.) Credulity? Because some company thinks it’s going to be considered more authentic for associating with an artist? (Hey, it’s just business.) Does it make a business more authentic because the artist has an aura that the corporation lacks?

Does a corporation want to be cool? Does an artist simply want to take corporate money without seeming corporate?

What about the actual authenticity here? This seems to be a case where the word authenticity is becoming something like “organic” or “new, improved” or “same great taste,” a way of labeling something so that, one the one hand (for corporations) you’re appealing to a hip segment of the audience, and on the other (for artists) you show you appreciate artistic individuality and hope that by offering money to artists your products and services are somehow more highly thought of.

It’s all advertising, and advertising isn’t in itself a bad thing at all. But authenticity isn’t something that is acquired, even if, unfortunately, it’s becoming a label. You’re authentic or you’re not. You aren’t authentic just because you call yourself an artist. And neither are you authentic just because you hold a party.


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