Italian artist Salvatore Garau recently auctioned an invisible sculpture for 15,000 euros ($18,300). According to as.com, the sculpture’s initial price was set between 6,000 and 9,000 euros; however, the price was raised after several bids were placed.
~Newsweek/June 1, 2021
Was there a typo in the dateline? Did the story actually come from the April 1, 2021 issue of Newsweek? Or more likely, is Salvatore Garau an Italian descendent of P. T. Barnum or Mark Twain?
Once the story was verified, my interest shifted from Signore Garau to those who had bid on his non-sculpture sculpture. And what would the unidentified owner do with his/her newly obtained “masterpiece?” Would he/she loan it to the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, Italy where it would occupy its own alcove next to that of Michelangelo’s David? Would it find a permanent home among the statuary in the gardens behind the owner’s villa, overlooking a pond filled with equally invisible fish?
As is so often the case, it was a totally unrelated story that caused me to break out in a cover of Johnny Nash’s 1972 hit, “I Can See Clearly Now.” The headline? “In a world first, El Salvador makes bitcoin legal tender.” (Reuters/June 9, 2021) Salvatore Garau had brilliantly demonstrated art’s ability, if not responsibility, to help us better understand and appreciate the human experience through imaginative representations. The purchase of an invisible statue was a creative, yet logical, extension of cryptocurrency. Garau ‘s statue “I Am” was nothing more than a metaphor for invisible money being pursued by millions of investors and now a sovereign nation.
The only remaining question is whether other art forms will follow suit. If Johnny Nash were still with us (he died on October 6, 2020) would he, ala Harry Chapin’s sequel to his hit “Taxi” titled (drum roll) “Sequel,” produce an updated version of his 1972 recording and call it, “I Cannot See It Clearly Now?” Or will some modern-day satirist publish The NEW Adventures of Tom Sawyer with the following revised text in Chapter II in which young Tom practices what he learned as a finance major at a prestigious American university, how to create wealth without creating value.
CHAPTER II–Tom and the Magic Piggy Bank
One Saturday morning, Tom appeared on the steps of his home holding a piggy bank when his friend Jim came skipping by humming “Buffalo Gals.” Jim stopped for a moment and saw what appeared to be Tom dropping coins into the slot. However, there was no sound, and on closer examination, Jim realized there was nothing between Tom’s thumb and forefinger each time he positioned his hand over the porcine vessel.
“What are you doin’ Tom?” Jim asked.
“Getting rich,” Tom replied. “I put these invisible coins in my bank, and magically, they are worth more every day. Do you want in on it?”
“What do I have to do? Can I just pretend to drop money in the bank like you do?”
“No, of course not. Someone has to manage the process. You buy the invisible coins from me with regular money and I drop them in the bank.”
“How do I get my money back?”
“You don’t actually get it back. You wait until someone else thinks the invisible coins will be worth more than you paid for them and buys them from you. They never actually leave the piggy bank. And the more people who want to buy your coins the more you make.”
And sure ‘nough, another friend Ben stopped on his way to the swimming hole. “Wanna join me?” Ben asked.
“Nah, Tom and me is getting rich,” Jim replied.
By sundown, everyone in St. Petersburg, Missouri had gathered in front of Aunt Polly’s house, clamoring to get a share of the invisible coinage. None noticed how there was no limit to the number of imperceptible discs the bank could hold. And each left dreaming about how they would buy a new car, boat or villa in El Salvador with their new-found wealth.
CHAPTER III–Tom Relocates to the Cayman Islands
For what it’s worth.