For my first show in a commercial gallery, fresh out of college, I was already painfully aware of how the art market is stacked against young artists. Not expecting to really earn any money on this “commercial” venture, I still found myself having to act as if. Positioning oneself on a market where one is entirely new, assuming a role and setting a price on ones work. I found all this rather ridiculous, given that I assessed my chances of selling as rather slim. So, instead I decided to turn the tables on the whole problem and make pricing the theme of my exhibition. Pricing of art, pricing of cheap imports, pricing of luxury goods.
3 Seat Settee, 2006, W120cm x H55cm. Leather, padding, mirror and veneer on mdf. Sold for £599.
I collected a number of ads from leaflets and magazines and the internet, ignoring the substance of the ads and instead aiming for their aesthetic quality. Then I set about remaking them into objects. The sculptures I created where not modelled after the commodities that were on sale, but rather after the ads themselves, as if they were the goods. In my new 3D renditions of these flimsy paper ads, I integrated the slogans, price tags and weird perspectives, as if these were all part and parcel with the objects.
Widescreen, 2006, Screen W94cm x H110cm, Lettering W120cm x H30cm, Hama beads on mdf. Offered for £1249,99. Still in artist’s possession.
To further tie together the substance of the art objects with the price stated on them, I decided to sell the sculptures for the price stated on them. Doing this, I expected some laughs for sure, but above all, I was hoping to raise the question of how one does set the price on something like art, especially art from someone who is unknown and therefore not in demand yet. According to the rhetoric of supply and demand, the price of an artwork is to be found on the crossroads of two graphs drawn out by informed and disinterested agents, and thus by definition always fair. In reality however, the price tag one sticks on the work of a young artist is more of a general agreement of how much one can ask for a recent graduate, it becomes a kind of flat-rate offer: Today, all carpets $100 per square foot!
White Wizard, 2006, L32cm x W32cm x H32cm, stained carpet on mdf box, sold for £5,95.
On the opening night, the cheap (whatever that means) sculptures quickly sold out, and the more expensive ones remained hanging. I had expected nothing less. What really pleased me though was that for many of the buyers, this was the first piece of contemporary art that they had ever bought. I know that people won’t be swayed to spend their money rashly just because a young artist thinks out a clever concept, but my goal was much more to incite a discussion. This I think I managed.
Maple Leaf Trail, 2006, L60cm x W40cm x H48cm, wood and epoxy. Sold for £499 one year after the exhibition.
Two things that I learned with this exhibition much later found their way into my project The Temporary Art Repairshop. Firstly, if you make contemporary art objects accessible for normal earners, they will be very happy to acquire them. Secondly, sculptures can act as a kind of ambassadors for the discussion you want to suggest. Not in that they tell people what to think about, but rather in that their “otherness” incite people to ask their owners what and why they are, so that both the owners and their friends get into interesting discussions on the topics that inspired you as you made the artwork.
Mattress, 2006, L49cm x W20cm x H15cm, ceramics. Sold for £99.
Laptop, 2006, L69cm x W49cm x H25cm, perspex and aluminium on oak. Offered for £629. Still in possession of the artist.
Alfa, 2006, lightbox, glass, mirrors, oilpaint, W46cm x H48cm. Offered for £21.695. Donated to the gallery.
Thong, 2006, painted ceramics, L28 cm x W22 cm x H39 cm. Sold for £21.
Conservatory, 2006, W120cm x H95cm, painted wood and glass. Offered for £3000. Still in possession of artist.
Window Wipes, 2006, W36cm x H80cm, glass and ceramics. Sold for £3,99.
Development Opportunity, 2006, L33cm x W10cm x H16cm, wood in glass bottle. Offered for £199,184. Four years after the exhibition I traded it for an essay for one of my catalogues.
Since I still find the discussion of a fair price for art important, I have stuck to my intention of selling the objects for the price of the commodity they are modelled after and not what I can get for them. Now, a decade later, with three pieces still tucked away in my studio, my other prices have well caught up with those I then considered expensive, but the discussion is as important as ever.