What does art mean? Does art defy meaning? Does art exist because humans say it does or does art exist in spite of ourselves?
All the world is art. Everything from a speck of dust to a statue made by Michelangelo can realistically be termed as “art.” If art can be everything, then art can be nothing as well. Recently, a Danish artist named Jens Haaning tested that theory when he submitted two blank canvasses to the Kunsten Museum. The artist was “commissioned” to recreate a known art piece of his that depicted the difference in average annual salaries of an Austrian and a Dane using banknotes. However, the artist claimed that the museum expected him to bankroll the project using his own funds, so he pocketed the “borrowed” money (totaling $84,000) that was to be used in the art piece and titled his work Take the Money and Run.
The museum “accepted” the two blank canvasses and hung them up, but they are demanding that the artist return the money that he “stole.” I put all the keywords in quotations because I want to string them all together in a single sentence: art commissioned borrowed accepted stole. Of course, that sentence doesn’t make any sense, but it also kind of does. That, my dear, is the definition of what art is. Art is anything that you want it to be.
Art is all about perception. In the codified world of art, there is no such thing as non-attachment. All art objects have meaning, even if they mean nothing. When Bansky remotely hit the shredder button on his Girl with Balloon at a Sotheby’s auction in 2018, the entire picture was supposed to shred and land on the floor. Instead, the mechanical device in the picture frame jammed, and it magically created a new art piece with a life of its own. The purchaser had a choice to either get a refund or continue with the purchase, and the buyer (of course!) chose to go home with the half-mutilated picture.
The non-shredded version of the picture sold for $1.4 million. Next month, the same picture in its shredded form will be going up for auction again, and it is expected to fetch upwards of eight million dollars.
$8 million is an insane amount of money for something that only partially exists. If Bansky was trying to make a statement, then the statement is that everything comes down to money – even art. What Banksy did proved that. Yet, he wasn’t the one hungry for money, the public is. All the world is for sale and the art world will feed off of him for years.
Thank you Bansky for showing us who we really are. You are the mirror that reflects what you see.