Take the money and run

While ArtworldSalon has no aspirations of being a newssite, sometimes a story gets dumped in your lap. Our Stockholm-based commentator, curator Power Ekroth, emailed me yesterday, telling me that our mutual friend…

Jan Christensen recently opened up an exhibition in Oslo at gallery MGM with a huge canvas with 1,000 100-kroner bills mounted on it. He sold it for the same amount 100.000 – and the work was all about value for money, the art market, etc in the Warhol-alley. He didn’t charge for artistic value or the work [involved in its creation], and the dealer took 50% as far as I know. Regardless, last night the painting/collage “Relative Value” was stolen from the gallery!

For what it’s worth, the cash adds up to just over $16,000. I’ve emailed Jan some questions and will update once he responds (Update In: See first comment below).

For before and after shots…. Christensen1000Kronar.jpg

4 thoughts on “Take the money and run”

  1. Artworld Salon: If the dealer gets 50 percent, then you would lose 50,000 Kroner on the sale, right?
    Jan Christensen: Yes, I would have lost 50.000 Norwegian Kroner on this anyway. And that is not even including the costs for stretchers and canvas and tools and glue. This work was intended as a jab at the hyper-commercialism of the art world, with artists clearly not paying interest in critique, galleries churning out beautiful but non-challenging group exhibitions and curators carefully playing along with the powerful facilitators of the art world who surely matter as much to art history as the “creative” artist her- or himself.
    Would it be possible for the thieves to detach the bills?
    Yes, the money was glued to the surface of the canvas with water-based wallpaper glue. It is a colourless kind of glue that dissolves in water. Though you need to dry the money somehow separately, otherwise the glue will stick again when dry. Only washing the bills properly would help. They are extremely crispy when dry and dyed in glue.
    Will you make another one?
    At the moment I am not sure if I will be making a “replica” (very much in the way Marcel Duchamp made replicas of his famous early pieces,) or if the piece from Norway is better left gone and I go on to make the EUR 10.000 piece that I am planning for my upcoming exhibition at c/o – Atle Gerhardsen in Berlin.
    Did you steal the painting as a publicity stunt?
    Considering the fact that the piece was insured and that the gallery space had a fully working alarm with an immediate response from the security company (they arrived within 12 minutes), doing something like that would have been a foolish stunt if it failed. Not to forget the serious offense such an insurance fraud would represent.

  2. This is a fun story. And well done for scooping the NYT, Marc. But let us not kid ourselves. The thief stole the money. Not a work of Art. And if the work was meant to be a long term Art Market comment, rather than just a stunt, the bills would have been indelibly stuck to the backing paper and therefore useless if stolen.

    A corollary question for the Salon: Do people really think thieves would target major contemporary works? Modern and Impressionist perhaps, but Contemporary? How certain is the value? How long term? How big is the market? How strong the liquidity? A thief’s attention isn’t a bad indicator of the real value of a market segment.

    But not this thief. And not this work.

  3. I think there’s a flaw in your logic at the last part of your questions, Ian. Because people who steal artworks don’t tend to know much about the art market. If they did, they would steal gold, silver, diamond jewelery and other objects that can be melted down, split apart, etc.

    As so many would-be Thomas Crowns have discovered, it’s very hard to resell art once it’s stolen. (I did an Art + Auction feature on art theft a couple of years back, for those who want to know more on the topic.) With contemporary art it would be even more foolhardy, because its value is lower and the channels it moves through are less opaque than those of, say, antiquities or Old Masters.

    The people who own ConArt tend to want the whole world to know. And they definitely want to be able to sell their collection at auction someday, not be forced into a discreet-dealer demimonde.

  4. %-)

    Whilst accepting that most Art is harder to fence than a mobile phone or a piece of jewellery, there are still tiers of liquidity in Art. I would suggest that the shelf life for a Rembrandt is longer than that for a Hirst, especially if it involved rotting corpses…

    My tongue in cheek point was simply that the value of most ConArt (your amusingly Freudian label) is HARDER to determine over the medium term, than that of an old master, and therefore a riskier target for theft.

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