In his 1975 book The Painted Word, Tom Wolfe attempted to expose the ludicrous depths to which modern art theory had sunk:
The conceptualists liked to propound the following question: suppose the greatest artist in the history of the world, impoverished and unknown at the time, had been sitting at a table in the old automat at Union square, cadging some free water and hoping to cop a leftover crust of toasted corn muffin or a few abandoned translucent chartreuse waxed beans or some other item of that amazing range of Yellow Food the Automat went in for – and suddenly he got the inspiration for the greatest work of art in the history of the world. Possessing not even so much as a pencil or a burnt match, he dipped his forefinger into the glass of water and began recording the greatest of all inspirations, this high point in the history of man as a sentient being, on a paper napkin, with New York tap water as his paint. In a matter of seconds, of course, the water had diffused through the paper and the grand design vanished, whereupon the greatest artist in the history of the world slumped to the table and died of a broken heart, and the manager came over, and he thought that here was nothing more than a dead wino with a wet napkin. Now, the question is: would that have been the greatest work of art in the history of the world or not? The Conceptualists would answer: of course, it was. Of course it was. It’s not permanence and materials , all that Winsor & Newton paint and other crap, that are at the heart of art, but two things only: Genius and the process of creation! Later they decided that Genius might as well take a walk, too.
Behold Process after Genius has taken off for a stroll:
[L]ast month, the actor James Franco put his name behind a strange new project called the Museum of Non-Visible Art, which takes what it calls conceptual art to a whole new level. Their website is here and there’s an explainer video here, but in simple terms, the idea of the museum is that the works of art don’t exist physically, instead they are imagined by the artist. So when you purchase the “work of art” you get a “card” to hang on an empty wall and you “describe it to your audience.”
Amazingly, the museum just made one big sale. A woman paid $10,000 for a piece title “Fresh Air,” which Paste Magazine describes as:
A unique piece, only this one is for sale. The air you are purchasing is like buying an endless tank of oxygen. No matter where you are, you always have the ability to take a breath of the most delicious, clean-smelling air that the earth can produce. Every breath you take gives you endless peace and health. This artwork is something to carry with you if you own it. Because wherever you are, you can imagine yourself getting the most beautiful taste of air that is from the mountain tops or fields or from the ocean side; it is an endless supply.
That reminds me. Last week I imagined a beautiful and stunning abstract piece about ennui and corn chips. I won’t say its the best work anyone has ever imagined, but it is—I imagine—in the top ten pieces imagined in the 21st century.
If you’re interested in purchasing a limited reproduction (only 3,999 editions will be imagined), they can be had for the low, low price of $19.95. Check, Visa, and PayPal accepted. No imaginary money, please.