What is public art, and who gets to display it? How does that work? And why? Those are the initial questions that Denver artist Matt Scobey is asking with his Not for Sale: Denver project, for which he'll be randomly hanging artwork in nondescript locations around town -- artwork that anyone can find and take. But this is more than just another exercise in guerrilla art. It's also an experiment, through which Scobey will explore the power of social media as it applies to struggling artists in particular.
"By putting my pieces in public places, I hope to get people to go places they wouldn't normally go, and at the same time explore social media and what it means as an easier way to tell people about where to find your work," he explains. In that spirit, he'll be sending out announcements via Twitter and Facebook for friends and select bloggers to pass on to their friends and readers. The outcome of that process, he hopes, will answer some questions he has personally about how the art world works.
There's also a third tier to his project: thinking about the pricing of artwork. Scobey recalls a show he participated in at the Emmanuel Gallery, where he encouraged gallerygoers to simply take the art. But it turned out that they were too conditioned to the gallery experience to do so. "Maybe this way, people will be less resistant to the idea that, 'Hey, I want you to take this, and it's free, and I made it for you.'
"In general, it seems strange to create work and feel like you then have to put a price on it," he continues. "Then you have to consider working with a gallery, and let take 50 percent of the profit. Artists now have the technology to do it themselves, to go directly to their target audience. What are galleries providing for the artist? A space to hang their work in? Or is it that they're doing that and just taking a cut? People get eaten up in it, and it's hard to figure out where you stand in all of that. This is my way of bringing up the subject."
If his idea catches on, Scobey hopes to bring additional artists into the mix, perhaps even big-name artists.
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Scobey announced his first mystery public work yesterday with a straightforward online message. When we checked the spot this morning, it was still there, and who can resist owning a cool piece of Scobey's signature patterned artwork? Not us. We took it home -- or at least to the office. You can do this, too. Sign up on Scobey's Posterous page and keep your eyes peeled for updates on Show and Tell.
And to keep up with the Froyd's-eye-view of arts and culture in Denver, "like" my fan page on Facebook.