Treasures from the wreck of the unbelievable, falsified heritage and the effects of the fake

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the reactions to Damien Hirst’s 2017 exhibit Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, which was composed of ‘faked’ treasures created by Hirst and his team that were allegedly ‘discovered’ by archaeologists. It examines debates over heritage and authenticity, and considers how the concept of the inauthentic is often interpreted as a cheat or a lie, arguing that the fake has differing cognitive and affective effects. It analyzes the polarising reactions reported in the media regarding the exhibit and its accompanying eponymous film, before engaging with theories on the sublime to examine how both produce a sense of awe for the scale, craftsmanship and detail of the exhibition. Finally, it examines specific moments when the sublime ‘breaks’ and the realisation of the fake shocks the viewer, using Brecht’s concept of the alienation effect to hypothesise that the fake in the exhibit and film produces moments of critical awareness that can cause the viewer to realise the constructedness, staging, and myth-making of heritage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)836-848
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Heritage Studies
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2022


  • false heritage
  • fake
  • sublime
  • alienation effect
  • authenticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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