Here comes food for thought via artist du jour Skye Nicolas who once again pushes the envelope with his newest piece ‘Buy Some Love.’
Ostensibly what Nicolas has done is taken an ordinary dollar note and scribed the text, ‘buy some love’ and seemingly watched the value of it jump into the thousands. Zany right? Well actually not. Not if you’re a Russian art collector who you happen to be having drinks with when the embossed dollar bill comes out of your pocket….
skyenicolas.tumblr: The art collector paused to relish this playful little piece of art that he now carefully held with the tip of his fingers at the edges. It began to tickle his impulsive art buying senses, activating a familiar excitement that stimulated his voracity and passion for art collecting. “I love it!” he declared. “It’s simple, incredibly witty, and says so many things on so many levels. How much?”, he asked the artist as he sifted through his luxurious but slightly tacky calf skin leather wallet. “I have… five hundred, fifty-three dollars! Please, I must have this.”
And thus has begun a process where Mr Nicolas latest piece has seen the aspirations of other art collectors who are now insisting that they too get a chance to acquire one of his dollar bills.
Muses Nicolas: If a dollar bill was purchased for five hundred dollars as a work of art, would a hundred dollar bill stamped with the same little red heart be worth five thousand? Perhaps. This is what is so ludicrously fascinating about the world of modern contemporary art. Wealthy people will pay large sums of money for just about any piece of art they fancy, and simply because they can; even if it’s what most people of the general public would identify as an ordinary dollar bill. Buy Some Love questions and challenges the concept of value and property, revealing playful irony and humor in the idea that an artist is capable of reassigning value, and in fact increasing the monetary value of actual currency, simply by transforming it into collectible art. Modern society seems to have been enslaved by the financial system, feeding on the visceral impulse that wealth can buy just about anything.
And perhaps Mr Nicolas has a point. What is anything really worth? Why do paintings made 60 -80 years ago and signed by Pablo Picasso command so much money? After all what is it but just a stretched canvas with the colorful musings of a man. Is it posterity, history, originality, that one is buying when one bids on such things of fancy? After all it’s not like one could put it to work or use it to make food? And what if one was trapped in a blizzard with no help for miles and no heat, would one burn a Picasso painting to provide fire (for example) in order to stay alive? Or is the Picasso painting only valuable because the above aforementioned Russian collector is betting that some day Mr Nicolas will be a world staple name whose work will be worth well into the millions?
Talking of what anything is really worth, I decided to quote Charles Saatchi (gallery owner and avid collector) the king of getting anything he wants for his art work and perhaps single handedly catapulting unimaginable work into the stratosphere:
Saatchi writes: “Being an art buyer these days is comprehensively and indisputably vulgar. It is the sport of the Eurotrashy, Hedge-fundy, Hamptonites; of trendy oligarchs and oiligarchs; and of art dealers with masturbatory levels of self-regard.”
“Do any of these people actually enjoy looking at art? Or do they simply enjoy having easily recognised, big-brand name pictures, bought ostentatiously in auction rooms at eye-catching prices, to decorate their several homes, floating and otherwise, in an instant demonstration of drop-dead coolth and wealth. Their pleasure is to be found in having their lovely friends measuring the weight of their baubles, and being awestruck.”
In that case perhaps paying 500 odd dollars and now a couple of thousand (yes the dollar bills have already proven popular amongst various members of society thank you very much- see appendage below) for a single dollar bill might be the best investment some of us could have made. Then again I wonder what would happen if I scribbled ‘buy some sense,’ on a dollar bill? Yes, I figured, you’d probably throw it away or at least use it towards buying a 99 cents slice of pizza and at least be left with a penny.
Isn’t it time you bought some love too?
appendage: UPDATE on ‘Buy Some Love’ Dollar Bill Art: A prominent LA-based music producer (who chooses to remain anonymous) recently acquired a signed dollar bill for $1,000. This week fashion designer Moises de la Renta of MDLR, also purchased one for three times the amount of its original purchase price, raising the current value of one single signed dollar bill to $1,500. De la Renta has framed the pricey dollar bill artwork and is now being displayed in the office of his chic home in Soho.
Q & A with Skye Nicolas:
What inspired the idea? Were you curious to see what you could get away with, and what if the art collector hadn’t offered you money? Would you still have sought to sell the dollar bill for some other nominal sum?
I wanted to create an art piece that would be able to interact with the general public without it having to remain locked-in to a specific location the way street art and graffiti pieces are stuck to walls. The artwork would have to be able to move around, literally traveling from one hand to another; and the only thing that seemed to have that natural function was money. I then came up with a simple slogan that would speak to whomever received the specially marked bill: “Buy Some Love”, is both sweet and ironic with a touch of humor. I fashioned the layout and fonts after those old Hallmark greeting cards I used to see as a kid, the type of graphic art that gives warm feelings of nostalgia.
It was purely accidental and I honestly didn’t intend on selling it. But the art collector who immediately fell in love with the artwork made it very clear to me that he had to have it; his reaction to the piece showed how much it meant to him personally. When he offered all the available cash he had in his wallet, the gesture not only transformed the artwork into a unique collectible piece, but also demonstrated how art has the power to re-assign value, and ironically, even to an object that represents actual currency.
This experience pretty much sums up the nature of the modern contemporary art business. Some of the truly wealthy buy what most would consider ludicrous, like Terence Koh’s gold plated feces that sold for $500,000 for example – That kind of purchase is simply a firm statement, an affirmation that reminds everyone else the unique purchasing power of a privileged few. Many people are easily baffled by this sort of art collecting and openly challenge the questionable tastes of today’s affluent art collectors. One can objectively deduce that it’s really not about “what” the mega-rich are collecting, but specifically more about “who” they’re collecting. Rich people don’t collect art, they collect names.
What can one expect a $5 bill with the same motto be worth? Or to be exact, what is anything worth? Or even better, what is a $5 bill actually worth?
I honestly have no idea. You can price any work of art however you want, but that price is not officially made real until someone actually buys it for that amount. At the moment I only intend on making one dollar bill art pieces as I like to keep things simple and focused. How much is $5 actually worth? As of the moment (2012), I think five bucks and some change can buy you an unhealthy fast food meal, or a highly sweetened coffee beverage at Starbucks.
Off the back of the huge run in art values precipitated by the likes of artists like Damien Hirst, what can we realistically say things are worth in the art world?
Damien Hirst currently holds the title of “richest living artist”. He’s been able to ingeniously create a demand for his work by turning himself into a desirable luxury brand for the mega-rich. When framed butterflies glued to colorful boards sell for millions a piece, it’s easy to declare that “anything goes in the art world”. Prices for artwork (no matter how, or what they’re made of), will continue to soar to dizzying heights. As long as there are people willing and able to buy the art, anything goes.
Can art be used to gauge what things like love, commitment, and real estate be worth in the real world?
The value or “worth” of any artwork can be measured using two basic factors: one, being its historical significance and place in art history, and two, its personal or sentimental value to its current proprietor. Of course these are very basic and generalized parameters to determine value. But when you really think about it, just about anything can be appraised via purely subjective assessments.
For the most part, art is composed of palpable objects that can be sold, bought, and owned as property. These objects can be assigned any given monetary value, whether truly significant or arbitrary is purely subjective. If you’re the kind of person who sees the world in terms of money, you’re able to put a price tag on everything you see and touch, even to visceral experiences that are only felt through emotion (such as love), then surely it’s possible to make value comparisons. I’ve met someone who admitted to loving his Francis Bacon painting more than he loved his wife. It’s a sad affair, but that’s the way he sees his world, and he seems to believe that he’s capable of living in it.
What can we expect from you next?
I’m currently working on a video installation piece starring a titillating sex kitten who’s been recently featured in Olivier Zahm’s sexy publication Purple fashion magazine. If all goes as planned it’s going to be shown at CATM gallery in Chelsea in late May. I can’t give away any details right now, but one thing for certain is that it will surely tickle your curiosity.