Leading British artists put their works on sale for a tenner
Young Turk and friends sell themselves short for arts radio
16 May 2004
by Amelia Hill
Gavin Turk is one of the original Young British Artists, a darling of Charles Saatchi and a favourite exhibitor at the hip White Cube gallery in east London, which makes a brisk trade selling his work for many thousands of pounds. Bill Drummond is one half of dance-pop pranksters the KLF and its quasi-institutional successor, the K Foundation, famous for incinerating £1 million, dumping dead sheep at the Brit Awards and giving £40,000 for the worst art in Britain to Rachel Whiteread, winner of the Turner Prize.
Both are now set to hit the headlines again after agreeing to team up with eight other artists next week to sell 10 pieces of their work for just £9.99 each. "This is incredible. I have never heard of anything like it: people will be queuing around the block two days beforehand if they have any sense,'" said David Grob, artistic director of the Eyestorm gallery, which sells Turk's work for tens of thousands of pounds.
The Sellout sale on 25 May at the Foundry bar in East London is in aid of Resonance 104.4fm, a self funded cult art radio station set up by the London Musicians' Collective. Although the sale could potentially generate hundreds of thousands of pounds, Resonance is simply trying to raise £1,000 to keep itself going for another month.
'I am fully aware that the logic of this sale barely computes for most people, and I agree that it is absolutely absurd - but that's the beauty of it,' said jason Synott, organiser of the sale, artist and resonance DJ.
'We could have sold a single work by Gavin Turk and raised more than enough money, but no one would have been involved and Saatchi would just have bought it anyway,' he said. There is room for 500 people in the Foundry, and sales will take place throughout the evening, with the first person to raise a hand walking off with an artwork worth many thousands of pounds. Unable to resist an art sale, Saatchi's aids have sought full details on behalf of their boss. Even the artists, however, sat they are confused by the reasoning behind Sellout, which will dispose of 100 pieces of original artwork in just four hours.
Turk who has been a guest DJ and occasional guest on Resonance, says: 'I suggested that all 10 artists made a single, more substantial piece each and that we raise enough to keep the radio station going for a year - but this is what they wanted to do, so I am happy to do it for that reason alone.'
Despite being a fully paid up member of the art elite for the past 12 years, Turk admits the sale appeals to him as a chance to return to what he calls the moshpit of the art world. He will donate 10 signed polystyrene cups, based on his famous painted bronze cups, filled with coins to indicate the money-raising nature of the event. Synott, whose work will also be sold, has persuaded respected artists Francis Upritchard, Richard Niman and Kirsty Whiten to donate works to the sale along with newcomers, Rebecca Hale, Tracey Sanders-Wood, Jo Syz and Daedalus.
Grob believes the sale indicates that artists are beginning to feel stifled by an art world that is increasingly controlled by a few millionaire dealers. 'It is completely inspirational to take art back to the streets and give opportunities to people who would never have dreamt they could own an original work,' he said.
But Cristins Ruiz, editor of the Art Newspaper, has a warning for those who see the sale as a short cut to riches. 'One needs to look very carefully at the quality of the work being sold in this sale, she said. "These are works that the artists have been able to turn out fairly quickly and are not therefore, going to be seen as a major piece of oeuvre. The truth is that you are simply not going to get a major Gavin Turk for £10."
Curt Marcus, director of Britain's leading art dealers, Hauser & Writh, said: "The cash value of the work is dubious because markets will always value it as the piece donated for nothing and sold for £10. But for people to consider buying one of these works simply to make a profit is completely anti the spirit of the entire event."