Who says you can’t afford beautiful works of art? Right now, there is a big exhibit on the outskirts of the French Quarter where you can get a great piece of art, made by two great New Orleans artists for just 25 cents. Read on.
The New Orleans Jazz Museum, that large brick-red building at the foot of Esplanade Avenue, was once an American currency. There is still a large, shaded room on the ground floor, where an old coin-stamping machine and other money-making equipment are on display, as well as examples of the pocket change that the ‘we used to produce by the ton.
Nowadays, among the antique devices, there are some surprises. New Orleans’ favorite concept art team Tony Campbell and Matt Vis have been allowed to place a few exhibits here and there. Most artists hope to sell their work to earn money. Campbell and Vis, who call themselves Generic Art Solutions (GAS), streamlined the process by just making money.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Generic Art Solutions, the artistic partners have produced commemorative half dollars with their own profiles where President John F. Kennedy should be. They also produced fake neighborhoods dedicated to the Bayou State. On the one hand, the neighborhoods present the outline of Louisiana before coastal erosion begins to reduce it; on the other side, the current very small coastline.
With an eye to the future, Campbell and Vis have also produced Padded and Padded Discs which are supposed to be the Generic Art Solutions version of the cryptocurrency, called “Easy Coin: The Soft Currency”.
During a recent visit to the exhibit, Campbell explained that the custom-made half-dollars are worth something because they’re made from practically pure silver. Overloaded Easy Coins, on the other hand, have roughly the same intrinsic value as a Mardi Gras throw.
Generic Art Solutions’ Easy Coins, however, are not that easy to obtain. Show visitors have to spend a real dollar to have a chance to grab an encrypted coin from a video arcade-style claw machine. So if you are lucky you could get a real work of art for just a dollar.
If you are lucky.
If you’re not lucky, you could spend the whole afternoon trading real money for dummy money. And therein lies the symbolism, of course.
The real bargain in the show is the bespoke neighborhoods of Generic Art Solutions, which are available through another arcade-style game of chance. Visitors are encouraged to drop real quarters at the top of the machine which fall onto a shelf with the fake quarters. The platform rolls back and forth like an ocean tide, and sometimes a real quarter causes a false quarter to wash out, just as Louisiana’s precious alluvial soil pours into the Gulf.
All the districts of GAS that fall end up in the pocket of the lucky visitor. It is therefore possible to get a fake quarter made by the great Tony Campbell and Matt Vis for only 25 cents.
This doesn’t always happen the first time, of course. But it does happen. A Times-Picayune art writer recently dropped 12 real neighborhoods into the machine and came home with four GAS neighborhoods. Rather, that’s a good chance.
The iconic work of art in the exhibition is a pair of piggy banks that are exact, life-size replicas of the heads of Campbell and Vis. Both ceramic self-portraits wear pink rubber muzzles, meaning artists see themselves as the money-making one percent, getting richer and richer as much of the country struggles.
But the truth is, Campbell and Vis have terrible instincts for making money. Why else would they spend thousands of dollars to produce a show that is unlikely to make a profit?
The artist painted the actor over and over again at different stages of his life
Campbell said he and Vis – who are middle-aged – were planning to withhold a few half-dollars in cash from Generic Art Solutions for their “final performance.” In a surprisingly poignant addition to the otherwise cheeky show, Campbell and Vis created a grim black-and-white video in which they had their own funeral, using those shiny silver coins to cover their eyes.
The exhibition, entitled “Face value: the illusions of power and money” tackles topics ranging from greed to gambling, to the environment, to the abstract value of money, to the value of art. Mixing genuine social commentary with enough tongue-in-cheek comedy to help the medicine drop, makes the show another hit for the renowned art duo. To place the subtly subversive spectacle among real lucrative equipment. makes it a conceptual masterpiece.
The “face value” is part of the international art exhibition Prospect.5 is now taking place in locations scattered across New Orleans. The New Orleans Jazz Museum is located at 400 Esplanade Ave. Hours of operation are Tuesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $ 8.
Be on the lookout: Mind-blowing art will materialize around New Orleans this month, as the October 23 opening of the Prospect Art Festival approaches.
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