BREAKING THE CONVENTIONS OF THE COMMERCIALISED ART WORLD
The most original and creative thoughts usually flourish in times of depression, whether it is psychological or economical. The Art Barter project, brainchild of London based curators Lauren Jones and Alix Janta, has struck a particular chord with artists and their audiences across the globe since its successful launch in London last November, which featured 50 artists including Tracey Emin, Gary Hume, Mat Collishaw and Gavin Turk.
At times where art and the artist have become commodities valorised by its exchange value, investment strategies and instrumental objectives, Art Barter provides an alternative platform for exchange between artists and their audiences without the direct involvement of money. What is a piece of art worth? A year of psychotherapy, piano lessons, or a lifelong supply of milk, cheese and eggs? A paid trip to the Bahamas, an exhibition, a kidney or a piece of your own art?
The concept of Art Barter was pioneered in response to the global economic state of affairs. It offers a uniquely creative mode of exchange for audiences unwilling or unable to enter the hegemonic dynamics of the art market. Aimed at removing the cash, hype, and fashion from the business of acquiring art, the Art Barter project is an exchange of works by emerging and established artists with collectors offering the most imaginative, compelling, or plain irresistible non-monetary offers. Through the anonymous display of works attention is focused on the artwork as opposed to the celebrity artist.
The inaugural show in London last November received an overwhelmingly positive response by artists, collectors, art enthusiasts and media alike. Following the success in London, Art Barter pursued the offer and took to Berlin earlier this year where amongst other Berlin based artists Jason Dodge, Jonathan Monk and Uwe Henneken bartered their works.
The event draws on a long history of artists’ exchanging work for goods and services, from Picasso or Modigliani trading paintings for hot meals at canteens in Montparnasse to the Café Rotonde and the Chelsea Hotel accepting art pieces as payment or Andy Warhol trading his work for a video camera.
In its progressive social notion, Art Barter not only widens access to the arts but also directs attention to the properties of interpersonal relations and social interaction between the artist and his audience. Tracy Emin who bartered one of her works for 30 hours of French tuition highlighted: “It cuts out the middle man…. It’s looking at the work rather than the artist”.
The concept initiates a re-examination of art and its value system. “In a world where the actual piece of work itself and its message or aura often falls second to the hype or price that is attached,” said Lauren Jones, the event “will encourage people to value the work themselves, not for the name or price tag attached.” In its cultural significance Art Barter not only bypasses instrumental demands on art and certainties brought about by capitalism but also reminds us that all contacts among individuals rest on the schema of giving and returning the equivalence; a statement undermining the commodification of social relations and its resulting ways in which human beings relate to one another are at the heart of the show.
Next week, Art Barter will hold its much-anticipated show in New York at the NP Contemporary Art Centre in Lower East Side. Over the limited course of four days Art Barter as a vital source for future generations will allow art enthusiast and collectors to participate and experience direct exchanges with 30 NY based artists including Bruce High Quality Foundation, Tom Sachs, Leigh Ledare, Michael Joo, Terence Koh, Bob Gruen and Tim Barber.