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Really? ‘Invisible Sculpture’ Sells for £13,000!

11 Jun 2021 | 0 Comments

Italian artist Salvatore Garau recently sold an ‘invisible sculpture’ for a whopping £13,000. Is this another sign that the art world is broken beyond repair? Or is it not so bad after all?


Let’s have a look!


Okay, let’s start with the basic facts...


The artwork itself is called Lo Sono (translating to, “I am”) which is a bit arty farty already isn’t it?


It was made (ahem) by 67-year-old Italian artist Salvatore Garau, who said that the artwork should be “exhibited in a private house in a roughly five-by-five-foot space free of obstruction” in order to be ‘seen’.


It was sold at auction (yes, more than one person was silly enough to bid on it) in May at the Italian auction house, Art-Rite.


And despite estimates that it would sell for around £6,000 the final sale price was almost double this!


The lucky buyer was rewarded with a Certificate of Authenticity, a set of instructions of how to show it, and... well... a whole heap of nothing else.


He’s Done it Before Too?


You might be surprised to find out that this isn’t his first ‘imaginary’ artwork.


Earlier this year he also exhibited a similar ‘sculpture’ titled, Buddha in Contemplation, which was distinguishable as he had marked out a white square on the cobbled street in which it was displayed.


He’s  exhibited a circular version of nothing too!


Shortly after selling Lo Sono, he marked out a white circle on the street outside the New York Stock Exchange’ called Aphrodite Cries.


And He’s Not the First to Make an Invisible Artwork?


Ever since the birth of conceptual art in the 20th century, artists have been playing around with the idea of creating invisible artworks.


After all, the next logical step from Duchamp’s urinal was ultimately...


“Well, if he can take that and call it a sculpture, then what’s stopping me from imagining a sculpture... telling you I’ve imagined it... and then us both agreeing that it exists and that it is therefore a sculpture.”


As such, a number of artists, including Michael Asher, Yves Klein, and Tom Friedman, have all created works which can be conceived but not seen... that is to say, they’re imaginary.


There was even a whole exhibition of these works, in one place (at Frieze) in 2006!


We hope they weren’t charging entry...


So, What’s It All About?  


If you ask the artist, his response as to what it really means boils down to his idea that even in a vacuum, or even in the air around us, there is a sense of space.


Therefore, by giving a name to a certain sized space, and saying that it exists in a certain location that we could (kind of) look at – he is making us more aware of the space around us.


Hopefully, that’s slightly easier to understand version of how he put it... which goes something like:


“When I decide to ‘exhibit’ an immaterial sculpture in a given space, that space will concentrate a certain amount and density of thoughts at a precise point, creating a sculpture that, from my title, will only take the most varied forms.”


Still Not Having It?


Okay, that sounds pretty snooty and esoteric, doesn’t it?


Some people have highlighted that there may be something else going on with this piece, which is a little less intellectual and more of a commentary on an economic issue in recent years.


Namely, it’s believed that the series of invisible works are making a comment on practices in digital marketing.


Specifically, it has been an issue for people paying for adverts on the internet.


A series of scammers essentially created methods of selling advertising space online, to real businesses, who were able to get very low cost-per-click visitors into their websites – meaning their numbers were going through the roof.


The issue was, however, that the majority of these were bots (ie. imaginary visitors) who actually provided to value to the businesses... other than making their website visitor statistics look good on the next report.


Once people realised this was an issue, other companies emerged to provide services that would block the bots from getting through, but they were often ineffective – despite telling businesses that they were indeed ratting out the baddies.


This part is why he gave the Certificate of Authenticity with the work, to make a point about the Authenticity of the people signing off on these kinds of things which are very hard to discern in the digital age.  


Ultimately, it’s all very similar to what we all saw in the Instagram influencer world, where they were able to make millions selling posts to companies wanting to promote with them – only for the companies to later realise that a huge percentage of their ‘followers’ weren’t real accounts.


We also reckon that you could draw similar parallels between this concept and that of the NFT boom which erupted earlier this year.


After all, when you buy an NFT you don’t get a physical object... you just get the certificate of authenticity to show that you paid for the data which is now securely stored on the blockchain in your name.


Okay, So Is It Any Good?


Well, that’s for each person who comes across the artwork to decide for themselves.


However, one thing that we think is really cool about this piece is that it relies on the buyer for it to have any meaning.


The narratives about advertising or NFTs are all about the silliness of people spending large amounts of money on ‘nothing’.


So, in this case, the buyer (hopefully) realised that by buying this artwork they are fulfilling their role in creating it by bringing that level of meaning to it.


Similarly, in the case of his public installation versions of the invisible sculptures, the people who stand there ‘looking’ at it, are the ones who (each time they do so) are creating, or rather completing, the artwork in their own right.


You’re Looking At It Right Now


So, to take that a step further, we can actually all experience Lo Sono or Budda in contemplation, or Aphrodite Cries, in front of us - right this second.


At least, we can more easily conjure it up in our minds and relate to it than we can the Mona Lisa – which arguably* you have to travel to Paris to see hung in its special spot at the heart of the Louvre.


As a result, it’s (ironically) actually quite a democratic work, and one which deals with and draws attention to a current day and very real issues relating to how technology is increasingly entering our lives, despite seeming at first glance like it is yet another person with far too much money, spaffing it away on art that nobody else will ever really get to enjoy.


*Calm down ultra-art history nerds... don’t come at us with your Walter Benjamin mumbo jumbo! We all know seeing it in person is different from seeing it in a book or a screen... whether we like it or not!