When does a bundle of cash pass as art?
“Currency,” a new work by Sydney artist, Denis Beaubois, went under the hammer at Deutscher and Hackett’s auction house in Melbourne last night.
If you’re confused by the image and believe that’s how much was paid for the art, you’re wrong. That’s the art: a stack of $100 bills totaling $20,000.
It sold for $21,350, including GST and buyer’s premium. So it probably went for a little less than it’s worth from a monetary perspective, although the taxman certainly won.
The material for the work was sourced through a "New Work –- Established" grant from the Visual Arts and Craft section of the Australia Council for the Arts.
“Currency” is described as a conceptual art project that explores the tension between the economic value of the material, against the cultural value of the art object.
Or is all that just fancy words for a pile of bills?
According to the work’s description, "Currency" poses fundamental questions about value and values. It asks what is the role of contemporary art: whether its success is all about the money and if its value is in the ideas it generates, or just in the materials used.
So what ideas does such a pile of cash generate? What do you see when confronted with a pile of notes that size?
For some $20,000 is a ton of money –- more than they’re likely to ever see in one spot, at one time. For others, it’s just the night’s takings from a behind-the-counter job, a deposit for a first home, or the cash payment for a new car.
“Currency” could be interpreted a bit like the children’s book, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Duped into believing he was wearing a magnificent new garment -- although it was actually nonexistent -- the emperor paraded in front of his court, who pretended to be impressed until a child shouted out: “Look! The emperor is naked.” Such an exclamation exposed the absurdity of the adults.
But being absurd adults, Beaubois' work does indeed inspire conversation, controversy, and debate –- and isn’t that what art is all about?
Regardless of the price the art fetched, the currency of the art -- or at least current relevance -- was arguably assured.