When you sell a non-existent statue, do you accept non-existent money? Apparently not. Italian artist Salvatore Garau sold a non-existent statue for $18,000 at an auction (further proof that suckers are born at a faster rate than one a minute). It’s called ‘lo sono’ (‘I am’). Those who make a living out of naming possible trends in art (snobs, in short) have called it "immaterial sculpture".
It got me thinking. Perhaps it’s time for a career change. I am willing to take a mere $10,000 for an invisible sculpture I personally made last week. It is highly flexible – you can display it at the city square, on your desk, or walk around with it on your shoulder like a pirate’s parrot. Art, as Marcel Duchamp told us, is whatever you think is art.
Recently someone paid $69 million for a JPEG file. It was an NFT, non-fungible token, slightly more material than Garau’s offering but no less profound. It’s enough to drive you to a cup of NFT coffee and immaterial cookies.
I have a sneaking respect for the artist (assuming he exists and isn’t an immaterial person). Here’s what he says, "The vacuum is nothing more than a space full of energy, and even if we empty it and there is nothing left, according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, that ‘nothing’ has a weight. Therefore, it has energy that is condensed and transformed into particles, that is, into us."
If you understood that, you have no future as an immaterial artist.
Garau’s other masterpieces of immaterial art are Buddha in Contemplation, ‘inside’ a square on a footpath in Milan, Afrodite Cries, ‘inside’ a white circle at the New York Stock Exchange, and possibly an unnamed work in my garden. I see a white triangle there. I might be the owner of an expensive sculpture, so maybe I should hire a security guard or two, at least one of whom is not immaterial.
On days when I feel low, I suspect the sculpture might be a fake, constructed by invisible forgers. I can’t check the signature on the work; I should ask Garau for an authenticity certificate. On other days, when I feel a rush of blood, I walk through the sculpture feeling like a super hero, although there is no way of knowing if I have damaged it in any way.
I wonder how much I can sell my invisible music for, and what I might have made had I left this page blank as ‘immaterial’ writing.
The artist, wrote James Joyce, remains within or behind or beyond his handiwork, invisible. What Joyce didn’t know – and we do – is that his handiwork can be invisible too.