Art and Money

by Belen Gache

Snake oil, mailboxes, and land lots on the moon: from market economy to quantum economics (through artists ‘money)

Many artists have experimented with the notion of money, whether with paper money itself or with the monetary exchange system. For example, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, Ant Farm, Fluxus, Arman or  Yves Klein. We will focus here on Klein´s piece of work Zone of pictorial sensitivity (1962). The piece consisted in the documentation of a buying and selling operation of an immaterial space that took place in Paris and that involved a check that was exchanged for a certain amount of gold. After this exchange, it was established that the check would be cremated and part of the gold would be thrown into the Seine in a sort of ritual or sacrificial act.

In the capitalist system, a trade consists of a private transfer of goods or services from one person or entity to another. But history records a series of operations that have been at least, anomalous, from pure and simple scams-selling snake oil, selling state mailboxes to particulars– to ambiguous forms outside every possible economic legislation-selling stars, selling land lots on the moon. The idea behind these forms of artists´ money and transactions has been precisely to reflect on such daily and taken for granted acts as buying and selling, being these on the basis of our social exchange system.

The sale, even more, the mere idea of possession is problematized in Klein´s work which can be framed in the context of the so called "poetics of dematerialization".


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