In the same essay, Benjamin writes "by the absolute emphasis on its exhibition value the work of art becomes a creation with entirely new functions, among which the one we are conscious of, the artistic function, later may be recognized as incidental." Benjamin contrasts exhibition value with cult value, which is grounded in ritual and (at least historically) shrouded in secrecy. He casts these as two poles, between which a quantitative distinction becomes qualitative, perhaps as in a cusp/catastrophe model (my words). Would love to read of others who have explored the space between these poles (or challenged his conceptualization).
I recently re-read (after 30 years or so) Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1955). Of note:
"Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be...The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity...The whole sphere of authenticity is outside technical--and, of course, not only technical--reproducibility...technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself...the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition."
But, I suggest, this is part of the myth of the origin.
Recently I have been watching the video lectures in "Sexing the Canvas: Art and Gender" by the University of Melbourne, via Coursera. A bit dry, but interesting to me, as a someone with little formal education in art. Of particular note (so far) are the discussions of Henri Rousseau's "The Dream" and "The Gypsy" and his presentations of women in active, rather than passive, roles.