Monday, March 31, 2008

JSG Boggs - what gives money its value? what gives art its value? what is value?

From Suite 101:
Although the United States Treasury Department has very strict and serious laws about the counterfeiting of currency, there is one law that is above them that they seem to recognize and that is the artists freedom of expression.

J.S.G. Boggs (born Steve Litzner) is most famous for his hand drawn, one-sided United States bills that he then exchanges for goods and services just like real money. His drawings show the hand of a master draftsman so much so that he has been arrested for his counterfeiting in England and Australia. Boggs was acquitted in both cases on the grounds that he was creating art and not forging or counterfeiting currency and trying to pass it off as such.

But Boggs’ creations are as elusive as his philosophy about the art he creates. He does not consider the drawn bank notes as money and they are commonly referred to as Boggs Notes, Boggs Bills, and Boggs Dollars. Boggs considers the art part of his work when he exchanges the bills, receives change, and receipt and goods. He then is willing to sell the receipt, change and goods as the art, not the original bill. If a collector wants a hand drawn Boggs Bill they will have to track down the lucky recipient themselves.

While Boggs art work could be considered hard to collect and esoteric he is taken seriously by the art world. The proof? His work is in the collections of the British Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian Institution.

One of my favorite books on the "value" of money is Lawrence Wechsler's Boggs: A Comedy of Values.

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