This month will mark the 10 year anniversary of the innovative and inclusive Art Barter project that questions notions of value within the art market and within ourselves.
Each Art Barter event is a physical exhibition featuring works from a selection of artists working and living in the host city at that time. Upon entering the exhibition, you will see a list of the included artists, however, each work will only be allocated a number; no name, price tag or description will be ascribed. The public is then invited to participate by making offers on the works, they can offer anything at all, except for money! This encourages visitors to engage with the works in a new way and to think about what appeals to them based on the visual aspect alone, as well as asking themselves what they have to offer that is different. The offers are made by completing barter forms which become an integral part of the exhibition, as time goes on the barter board grows and visitors try to outdo each other, yet, there is no rhyme or reason to the offers that the artist will eventually choose.
Most popular exchanges that have taken place in the past include 30 hours of French tuition for Tracey Emin’s monoprint; a handmade guitar for a photograph by Bob Gruen, art shipping to Venice for Gavin Turk’s screen-print and an intern for 300 hours in exchange for a sculpture by Tom Sachs. Other examples include the young art student Noriaki Hattori who was offered an all expense paid trip to Egypt for his large painting but decided to exchange with a 5-year-old boy for a remote control car. Some outrageous offers that have been made but respectfully declined include ‘a human kidney’, ‘a woman’s firstborn’ and ‘a child’s skeleton’. You can see an overview of all offers made and exchanged on the website: www.artbarter.co.uk
Since the inaugural exhibition in London’s East End at the end of 2009, Art Barter has put on events throughout the world including Berlin, New York, Madrid, Istanbul, México City, Dubai and Oaxaca as well as further exhibitions as part of Herning’s Socle Du Monde Biennale in Denmark, The Strummer of Love Festival in Somerset and three Mini Barter exhibitions in unusual locations coinciding with London’s Frieze Art Fair. Each event is unique in its selection of artists, its curious location and most importantly the way that participating visitors in different countries receive the project, this has lead critics to deem the ongoing series a sociological experiment.
Following the recession of 2008, Art Barter founders Alix Janta-Polczynki and Lauren Jones teamed up to offer an alternative to the typical way of acquiring art. They were aware of artists throughout using barter as way of life, such as Picasso exchanging meals for doodles on napkins. They wanted to bring this system to a greater audience and allow a community to be born that would include people of all ages and all walks of life, offering everyone the opportunity to collect art without the use of money.
This September will see the 10th international event, featuring artists currently based in Athens.