SKYE NICOLAS, Buy Some Love, 2012
Red ink on U.S. currency dollar bill
2.6 x 6.14 in (6.63 x 15.60 cm)
BUY SOME LOVE
Re-assigning the monetary value of actual currency
An artist and a wealthy Russian art collector were having drinks at a hotel bar after having attended an art auction earlier that evening. Upon paying for their beverages, an unusual dollar bill slips out of the artist’s wallet that catches the ever curious eye of the wealthy art collector. “What’s this?” he inquired, picking up the crisp dollar bill. “New work” said the artist smiling. The back of the fresh note had been embellished with a small red heart, ink-stamped right at the center of the U.S. dollar note. It simply read “Buy some Love”, rendered in a pleasing greeting-card-like font.
The art collector paused to relish this playful little piece of art that he now carefully held with the tip of his fingers at the edges. It began to tickle his impulsive art buying senses, activating a familiar excitement that stimulated his voracity and passion for art collecting. “I love it!” he declared. “It’s simple, incredibly witty, and says so many things on so many levels. How much?”, he asked the artist as he sifted through his luxurious but slightly tacky calf skin leather wallet. “I have… five hundred, fifty-three dollars! Please, I must have this.”
A few days later, the delighted art collector proudly displayed the heart-stamped dollar bill (now signed by the artist) encased in a lovely glass box that rested on his precisely organized office desk. That same day, an upper east side heiress ordered a heavily sweetened latte at Starbucks. She is handed a receipt along with her change which included another dollar bill stamped with the same little red heart that had charmed the Russian art collector. “Buy some Love”, it read. It spoke with serendipitous irony that made the heiress think of her petulant ex-husband whom she recently caught cheating on her with a high-class escort. Flustered and irate, she marched out onto the street and threw all her change including the heart-stamped dollar bill into the hat of a street performer who was playing a jazzy sax rendition of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ by The Beatles.
If a dollar bill was purchased for five hundred dollars as a work of art, would a hundred dollar bill stamped with the same little red heart be worth five thousand? Perhaps. This is what is so ludicrously fascinating about the world of modern contemporary art. Wealthy people will pay large sums of money for just about any piece of art they fancy, and simply because they can; even if it’s what most people of the general public would identify as an ordinary dollar bill. Buy Some Love questions and challenges the concept of value and property, revealing playful irony and humor in the idea that an artist is capable of reassigning value, and in fact increasing the monetary value of actual currency, simply by transforming it into collectible art. Modern society seems to have been enslaved by the financial system, feeding on the visceral impulse that wealth can buy just about anything.