You complete me: Posthumous works and secondary agency
journal contributionposted on 31.08.2021, 22:24 by Sondra BacharachSondra Bacharach, D Tollefsen
Many works are attributed to artists after their death, even when someone else has contributed substantively to the content of the work or when the work left by the artist is deemed incomplete by any standard of completion. Call these works posthumous works. These cases give rise to several interesting and related questions about the ontology of artworks and authorship: If the works are incomplete when the first artist dies, then can someone else complete them, or do they remain forever unfinished? Are works that are altered after the artist's death new and distinct works? If they remain forever unfinished, then what is the unfinished works' relation to the putatively 'finished' work? If, on the other hand, they can be finished and are finished by someone other than the original artist (since the original artist is dead), then to whom to do we give credit: the deceased artist, the finishing artist, or both? Recent accounts of when an artwork is complete make posthumous works impossible. In this paper, we offer an explanation of how the unfinished work of the dead can be completed and why in these cases attributing the work to the dead is justified.