That's what the French were murmuring about "Fountain", the 1917 work by Marcel Duchamp—a urinal not used for its intended purpose but submitted as an artwork. The controversial product—a very appropriate word, here—made by Piero Manzoni in 1961 generated similar reactions. Essentially, both artists, whose works are now exhibited in several museums worldwide, were playing a dangerous game: they were digging into the concept of work of art to bring to the fore its key element: the artist. Just keeping this in mind, it is possible to understand the breakthrough made by Arteconomy, a new form of contemporary art, Five Gallery’s provocation pushing the desecration limit a little further and thus overcoming even the concept of artist. Continuity is the heart of Arteconomy. Professor Andrea B. Del Guercio, Art Director at Five Gallery and contemporary art historian, explains the Continuity project and art movement.
Q: Professor Del Guercio, which is the meaning that Arteconomy is looking for?
A: In modern and contemporary times, the attribution of the artistic merit no longer arises from stable processes and variables as it happened with the ancient heritage; it is rather constantly evolving and often subject to opinion conflicts.
The language evolution, the different techniques and procedures adopted, the contamination of different scientific cultures, including economy, have influenced the art making process and the aesthetic judgement and also involved new experts. Currently, the art collecting market, and the art market in general, have seen new players working in not always uniform contexts and timings: many are worryingly wondering who determines the value of an artwork nowadays. Who establishes the value hanging and looming over artists and their works? In brief, the value of an artwork is set by auction houses, experts, curators, merchants as well as by fashion and trends of the star system; but we know that the price is also affected by the time or the geographical area. Let me explain this, the same artwork can be assigned different values depending on whether it is auctioned in London at 10 a.m. or in New York at 10 p.m. We have here different mechanisms and often arguable solutions, while astronomical amounts of money make the art business grow. Arteconomy participates in a process involving history as well as enjoyment and distribution of art.
Q: Does Arteconomy want to break this mechanism?
A: Surely, it upsets a strict system based on many shadows, several ambiguities and a few certainties. The Art Manifesto, Arteconomy’s theoretical framework, is based on the fact that the artwork price is certain, because it is fixed according to financial criteria, and governed by a system of rules applying to the real economy.
Q: How does it work?
A: Let’s consider the modular production of Continuity: a series of progressively numbered 93x83cm paintings created using recycled carbon fibre, i.e. industrial scraps transformed and made unique by an industrial machinery located in Manno (Canton of Ticino). The industrial product evolves into art not because of aesthetic affinities, but thanks to a transfer process able to raise it to the superstructural level of the cultural industry. The work becomes a work of art within the frame of and because of its location in the art gallery, which is the place dedicated to the contemplation of art. After the intuition of Marcel Duchamp, who thought that the King Midas-Artist adds value to the artwork by moving and naming it, the next step is to assign an economic value to a painting independently from the artist's action. In Arteconomy, an a priori value, for instance 500 CHF, is attributed to the first piece of the Continuity works; then, the price of each following piece is increased by 100 CHF, thus generating a consistent growth.
Q: And what does it happen, then?
A: Differently from the traditional economic theories, the price increase springs from the “incremental emotion” arising from the endless continuity, from the joy of belonging to a community sharing the same project, rather than from a purely aesthetic and cultural emotion, or even from mere logics of investment. Hence, the incremental emotion is valued 100 CHF, that is the price increase for each work sold. It’s a new way of enjoying art, independent from the creative processes and the rules of the art market, but, anyway, typical of the aesthetic experience, which is a component of human nature.
Q: Are there other analogies with the world of finance?
A: In addition to the neologism "incremental emotion" that we provocatively created, we introduced the concept of "emotional co-dividend". All the Arteconomy collectors form a community that Arteconomy considers as a company, and when a company grows, it generates profits and distributes dividends. Similarly, Arteconomy distributes a dividend, or rather, a co-emotional dividend, equal to 10% of the net sale price.
Q: It is the first time that I hear such a concept... Can the cycle be broken?
A: Not at all. Arteconomy is transparent and in open contrast to the main mechanisms governing the art market. So, the Continuity pieces can be bought only in arithmetic progression: if number 7 is on the market, I cannot buy number 12. This is the only way for art not to become a volatile asset ready to bow to the will of a few privileged people.
Q: An added value?
A: More than that, a shared value.
Andrea B. Del Guercio
Professor of History of Contemporary Art at Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, in Milan. Since 2007, he has been dealing with the Accessibility Systems to Contemporary Art Collecting