In 2012 a local gallery had their fundraiser bar takings stolen, and to recoup some of their losses they listed an artwork for auction on ebay which had been donated to them by local artist Andy Wear. At the time I didn't know who the artist was or what the artwork looked like but I was willing to put in a bid purely as a donation to the gallery. I think the auction was only at about $100, and was drawing to an end when I made, to my surprise, the winning bid.
This is one of the most unexpected and most controversial artworks I've been involved with. Essentially, the piece is a conté drawing on paper from one of Australia's most celebrated visual artists Sidney Nolan, and it has been pan-fried by contemporary artist Andy Wear.
The drawing was given to Wear's Grandfather by Nolan himself (it's said to be a sketch of him). I'm told Grandfather Wear didn't really care for it, or art in general. Eventually it found it's way to Wear, who wasn't that phased about it either but saw it's implied potency and the power of it's projected value (*maniacal laugh in the distance). He also claims to have had a dream which seeded the idea for frying the work.
You'll never get a straight answer out of me as to whether I think it's right or wrong to alter another artists work, I did buy the piece though so I am obviously leaning toward one side in this case.
Messing with another artwork is not a new idea, in fact it sits quite comfortably in the Neo Dadaist movement, but it never ceases to get debates roaring. The 1953 "Erased de Kooning Drawing" by Robert Rauchenberg is now considered an historically important piece and is owned by the San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art. Some six decades later, it surprises me that Wear's actions were met with such excitement; in one opinion piece Wear was sighted as a "dickhead", it was suggested he would have done the art world more of a service by frying his own testicles, and that the artwork was destroyed along with it's monetary value. To me, these sentiments are all faulted in one way - the artwork in it's original form is only seen as worthy of protection because we are told it is, similarly it is officially destroyed and worthless only when we are told it is. You can sense where I'm going with this so I'll leave it there, bar this thought; We readily accept blurred lines between realism & abstraction, performance & painting, installation & sound art, to name just a few; why not between representative art & conceptual art?
The once unwanted sketch combined with a process (frying) and a preconceived set of rules (Sidney Nolan is a national treasure) have produced the physical embodiment of a conceptual artwork. This to me, is a new kind of valuable.
From my point of view as the current owner, in this incarnation of the Fried Nolan, taking into consideration how I purchased the piece and at what price, I can safely say that I am immensely happy with it. It is visually gorgeous with it's textures, golden hues and bleeding lines. It has a rich and lively story. It was a bargain, and of charitable nature in each step of it's journey so far, and it reminds me that art cannot, and will not be pinned down by popular culture to die a slow and boring death.
Lessons learnt - Sometimes art makes us uncomfortable, this doesn't mean it's bad (or good). One soul's trash is another soul's treasure. Value is relative.
Artwork - Andy Wear / Sidney Nolan
Price - $120
Purchased via - Ebay / Brunswick Arts
Find out more:
Erased de Kooning Drawing
Watch Andy fry the drawing
Fried Nolan articles:
Arts Hub, Daily Telegraph , News.com.au , Moreland Leader
The Humble Collector.
By sharing the unique stories of how I came to own the art I do, I hope to show you that not only is buying art for your home exciting, enriching and painless, but it's undeniably rewarding for all involved.