Discrete Non-Visible Objects

Kianga Ellis, a former derivatives lawyer turned “art evangelist”, makes some interesting parallels between the monetizing of social art and the immaterial products sold on our financial markets. Via Art21 interview by Brendan Carroll

Social art works — performances, interventions and other activities that involve people interacting or information presented within certain parameters conceived by an artist – would be widely acknowledged as discrete non-visible objects that can be bought and sold by contractual agreement at diverse price points.

Creating a market requires productizing the activity in some way that allows people to understand what it is and what it isn’t. It requires an entrepreneur who inspires the agreement of a group of people about value, monetary terms and systems of exchange.  My experience as a commodities and derivatives trading lawyer has opened my eyes to some interesting parallels. A derivative is most simply a contract that derives its value from some other thing. It can be bought and sold, but is in fact an intangible having value that is created by the specific agreements, belief and faith of market participants. Where social art is concerned, the entirety of the artistic gesture and its impact should be comprehended as the art work.

The activities and writings of conceptual artists in the 1960s imagined a way of being in the world (including the art world) that we now take for granted. The time is now for a new dynamic within the art market to emerge because everyone who uses the Internet in a socially networked way understands how concrete the virtual and intangible can be. Ideas about what an art work is and what constitutes collecting art that were once very esoteric are not very exotic today. The mindset required to appreciate and collect social art is consistent with the way many aspects of our lives and society are now organized.

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