ILLUMINATING COMPARISONS: LOOKING AT FAKES AND FORGERIES
DURING THE SUMMER of 1973 the Minneapolis Institute of Arts mounted an exhibit of several hundred works of art drawn from diverse persons and schools. It included works representative of several aesthetic media, ranging from paintings and drawings to book covers and pottery. The show was billed as an "educational exhibit." This struck me as a curious designation from one point of view, since a noneducational museum exhibit is difficult to envisage. And yet, as the exhibit lent itself superlatively to pedagogical purposes, perhaps the description is justified. I had the opportunity to attend the exhibit on a number of occasions; it proved a singularly entertaining and edifying aesthetic experience. In this essay I will seek to uncover the reasons for my positive reaction and consider whether some wider principles might be culled from this experience. Using the exhibit as a point of departure, I will examine the technique of the "illuminating comparison" as a means of heightening aesthetic awareness in individuals of diverse ages and backgrounds.
Fully half of the works on display in Minneapolis would normally have been a source of keen embarrassment to the curators and trustees of a museum, for the director and the curatorial staff had assembled