Doc's note: Everyone seems to want to buy non-fungible tokens ("NFTs")... But no one really seems to know why or even how to do it. Some folks wonder if we're already in bubble territory.
Today, I'm sharing a story from my friend and colleague Dan Ferris (adapted from his October 1, 2021 Stansberry Digest issue), where he details a "bubbly" tale from the art world...
Over the past several months, I have proclaimed that "this is a bubble"...
Of course, as soon as I say it's a bubble, a crazy story appears in the industry prone to the weirdest financial excesses, suggesting the current bubble is as frenzied as ever.
My goal over the next couple of days is not to call the top. Instead, I simply want to give you a sneak peek of what it feels like at the top. (Hint: It feels just like this.)
But before we do that, I can't resist a good story from the art world... There's just no other place to find sheer, unbridled financial excess like you'll find in fine art. (OK, "fine" is debatable – but you know what I mean.)
In the past, I've covered such extravagances as a $120,000 banana taped to a wall... a $69 million NFT... and an $18,000 piece of "invisible art" in Italy.
I thought I had seen it all, until the latest example came across my desk.
In short, several months ago, the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark, contracted Danish artist Jens Haaning to recreate a pair of his previous works...
According to multiple reports, Haaning first exhibited the two pieces, "An Average Austrian Annual Income" and "An Average Danish Annual Income" in 2007 and 2010, respectively. The pieces were created as visual representations of the two countries' average incomes at the time of each work – 25,000 euros (roughly $29,000) and 328,000 Danish kroner ($37,800).
In addition to the undisclosed amount that the museum agreed to pay Haaning, it gave him $84,000 in cash to use as part of the two pieces of art. Haaning signed a contract that said the cash was to be displayed on the works... It wasn't his money to keep, and it had to be paid back when the exhibit closed on January 16, 2022.
However, as you can probably guess since I'm telling you about it, Haaning had other plans...
Instead of the two works requested by the museum, he submitted something much more interesting – two blank canvases under a brand-new title, "Take the Money and Run."
Haaning is apparently known for art that promotes activism with a sense of humor.
The humor part is obvious... Even museum director Lasse Andersson laughed when the newly delivered crates containing the works were opened, revealing the blank canvases.
But what's the activism angle, you ask?
How much artists get paid.
According to a press release from Haaning, by changing the title and submitting blank canvases...
[He questions] artists' rights and their working conditions in order to establish more equitable norms within the art industry.
On a Danish radio show, Haaning also said...
I encourage other people who have just as miserable working conditions as I do to do the same.
Rights... more equitable norms... miserable working conditions... for gluing cash to canvases. Or this time around, for doing nothing!
But, well, maybe he's right...
Demanding that artists submit work you can actually see seems like nothing short of slavery... I bet some evil capitalist thought it up, just to keep artists enslaved.
Imagine being an artist who works for a global company like Disney (DIS)... or maybe some big advertising agency in charge of marketing. They must crank out a constant flow of real artwork that you can see. And I bet some of those folks don't even make $100,000 per year!
But they should darn well also have the right to submit nothing and get paid for it... or at least, the right to throw a banana against the wall and collect an extra $120,000 for it. They should all show up for work tomorrow... submit something invisible... and demand a big, fat raise.
Artists of the world, unite! Stick it to the man! Empty all of the world's art galleries of visible artwork! End the chauvinism of visible art now!
Thank heaven for frontline warriors like Haaning... He's striking at the root of this horrendous abuse on behalf of oppressed artists all over the world, the voiceless folks who are required to do actual artwork by heartless capitalist pigs.
I hope you sensed my sarcasm. I could keep going on this rant forever...
An artist saying he's underpaid to produce absolutely nothing is even crazier than the $120,000 banana and the $69 million NFT. It also trumps the previous work of invisible art in Italy, because that guy only got $18,000... which, by the way, he was paid outright without stealing it. He failed to get into the activist spirit like Haaning.
As Haaning said in a Danish radio interview, "The breach [of contract by taking the money] is part of the work." Not keeping your word is art these days, apparently.
The Danish museum has since issued a civil lawsuit to get the money back – although Andersson, the museum director, did admit that the exhibit was more popular than he expected.
I'm betting on Haaning, though... If he's smart, he has already converted the money to bitcoin and laughed all the way to Thailand.
Like the art world, the financial world is full of intangibles that can attract outrageous valuations...
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