James Franco's crazy new art project

Is the "Museum of Non-Visible Art" a serious endeavor? A hoax? A real-life "Emperor's New Clothes"?


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Emma Mustich
June 13, 2011 10:14PM (UTC)

James Franco's newest art project is either an example of subtle creativity, an extremely shallow con, or a hoax. The actor/writer/student/artist/Oscar host is, to all appearances, collaborating with with Praxis ("the collaborative art team of Brainard and Delia Carey") and curator Vallejo Gantner to create MONA: The Museum of Non-Visible Art.

What's the difference between a museum of non-visible art and an empty room? You may well ask. Here's what MONA's website has to say:

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The Museum of Non-Visible Art is an extravaganza of imagination, a museum that reminds us that we live in two worlds: the physical world of sight and the non-visible world of thought. Composed entirely of ideas, the Non-Visible Museum redefines the concept of what is real. Although the artworks themselves are not visible, the descriptions open our eyes to a parallel world built of images and words. This world is not visible, but it is real, perhaps more real than the world of matter, and it is also for sale.

The project is currently being advertised on the fundraising website Kickstarter, where, in a promotional video, Brainard Carey tells us: "[This is] a museum of ideas. It's a museum of real visual ideas that exist because we describe them, and we are selling them and you're owning them."

The project's profile page is quick to caution contributors about the nature of the museum's inventory, however:

Important Note: When you contribute to this Kickstarter project, you are not buying a visible piece of art! You will not receive a painting or a film or a photograph in your mailbox. What you will receive is something even more fascinating: The opportunity to collaborate in an act of artistic creation. You will receive a title card with a description of a piece of art, as well as a letter of authentication. You may mount this card on a blank wall in your home or gallery. What comes next is up to you! The artwork comes to life—and takes on full personal meaning—in your imagining and describing of it, both to yourself and to your visitors. You may also choose to sell the non-visible artwork to another collector, to exhibit it elsewhere, or to lend it back to Praxis when we take the Non-Visible Museum on tour.

As these non-visible works of art are bought, exchanged, and resold, they open our eyes to the unseen universe that exists at every moment, and we can share that universe. It is like finding the code beneath. We exchange ideas and dreams as currency in the New Economy.

The project's backers emphasize that when you donate money to the Non-Visible Museum, you're not just pitching cash down a black hole; in exchange for your pledge, you get a piece of art. For a mere $20, for instance, you can get one of 500 "Fur Balls" Sculptures. Here's the listing:

By Praxis - Sculpture - Fur Balls - A sculpture, the size of a human head, but round, covered with human hair taken from wigs. There are 18 of these which can be arranged, according to the site in any order you wish, so you can imagine those sculptures in your own space. When you are describing the work to your friends, feel free to rearrange everything. The feeling from this work is attractive in one way (you want to pet those balls), but it is also repulsive in the sense that they look a bit like a dead animal. The owner of this artwork will receive a title card with a description of the piece to be mounted on your wall, and used when explaining the work. You will also get a letter of authentication, and a pdf copy of the catalog! • Important! You are not buying a visible piece of art; you are buying the title and description card for the imagined artwork.

Of course, if you're feeling really generous -- generous enough to give, say, $10,000 -- you'll get something much more impressive. This one-of-a-kind "conceptual" piece is still available:

By Praxis - Conceptual - Fresh Air -This is a unique piece, only this one is for sale. The air you are purchasing is like buying an endless tank of oxygen. No matter where you are, you always have the ability to take a breath of the most delicious, clean-smelling air that the earth can produce. Every breath you take gives you endless peace and health. This artwork is something to carry with you if you own it. Because wherever you are, you can imagine yourself getting the most beautiful taste of air that is from the mountain tops or fields or from the ocean side; it is an endless supply. Naming Rights- You get an entire wing of the museum named in your honor for this purchase. The owner of this artwork will receive a title card with a description of the piece to be mounted on your wall, and used when explaining the work. You will also get a letter of authentication, and a pdf copy of the catalog! For this category, you will also get invited to the after-party if you are in New York City in November of 2011. • Important! You are not buying a visible piece of art; you are buying the title and description card for the imagined artwork.

Only 78 days left to go. Get pledging!

[Hat tip: The New York Observer/BetaBeat]

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Here's the Praxis/Franco video ad:

 


Emma Mustich

Emma Mustich is a Salon contributor. Follow her on Twitter: @emustich.

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