Artist makes millions selling invisible art

CBC Radio's satirical This is That show recently ran a segment about artist Lana Newstrom, who is supposedly making millions by selling invisible art. The show quotes Newstrom as saying, "Art is about imagination and that is what my work demands of the people interacting with it. You have to imagine a painting or sculpture is in front of you."

The show's web page for the segment included a photo of art enthusiasts staring at blank walls in a gallery, apparently admiring Newstrom's paintings and sculptures. The image was actually a doctored version of a photo taken by Adriano Castelli showing people at Phil Stern's photograhy exhibition in Milan, Italy, June 2010. In the original version, there was art on the walls.

Like many of This is That's previous pieces, (such as their segment about soccer without a ball and a man emerging from a Y2K bunker after 15 years) this one went viral, fooling quite a few people into believing that Lana Newstrom is an actual artist and that people really are paying millions of dollars for invisible art. (She isn't, and they aren't).

Among those fooled were the site, which after mocking the rich art afficianados walking around a gallery looking at blank walls, noted that the story "was not, we repeat, not published in The Onion." This is true, but it was nevertheless a satirical story.

The Guardian notes that although This is That's piece was intended as satire, invisible art actually is a real thing. Which is to say that there's a history of artists exhibiting blank canvases or blank spaces and claiming that they're works of art. I've posted about the phenomenon before, back in May 2012, when I wrote about London's Hayward Gallery hosting an exhibition of invisible art.

An article (in French) at traces the phenomenon of invisible art back to the mid-19th century, when artists first started offering up monochrome canvases as tongue-in-cheek jokes. For instance, in 1851 an exhibition in Brussels included a monochrome blue canvas, which was described as showing a blue sky, blue sea, and woman in a blue shirt. And monchrome canvases, eventually evolving into blank white canvases, have been a running gag in the art world ever since.

(Thanks to editorial advisor Bob Pagani.)


Posted on Wed Oct 01, 2014


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