The concept of “pay what you want” already exists in many areas, from guided tours to music downloads. But it's above all cafes and restaurants that report positive results. When price recedes, the focus is on value. The absence of a prescribed price means lack of transparency and how it is calculated is no longer an issue.

Why hasn't “pay what you want” been discovered by the art world? Galerie Vayhinger based in Singen, Germany and the artist Tim Beeby have already undertaken a not altogether different experiment in Berlin, which will now continue in Vienna at the invitation of Galerie bechter kastowsky.

Tim Beeby is giving his work away for free. From an aesthetic point of view, they are complete, but from an artistic, art-historical and market point of view they are unfinished in one specific, not insignificant aspect. Visitors are being invited to take unsigned, undated and untitled works on canvas away with them – for free. Alternatively, they can have the work signed by the artist and then purchase it at the standard market price (from around 1,400 euros).

“We are especially interested as gallerists in how the value of art is perceived and what determines what gets hung on the wall. Of course, the aesthetics and the expression are the same, but the value is different,” explained the two gallerists Eva-Maria Bechter and Robert Kastowsky.

“Almost every artist will sooner or later face the problem that the signature, dating, and appearing in a catalogue will relate to a particular value,” according to Robert Kastowsky. The problem of “justification” is well known to the two gallerists, both from the point of view of the artists, as well as that of collectors who in practice have not always acquired what they supposedly bought. Misleading information, misunderstandings, and insufficient details circulate in the market. Bechter and Kastowsky want to direct attention to the issues, which beside aesthetic expression, generate sustainable value. “In a way, the project aims to promote  the seriousness of the artist, collector, and gallerist,” explained Eva-Maria Bechter.

Introducing unsigned, untitled and undated work to the market is a radical gesture. According to the press release: “In art historical terms such a process reverses that of the readymade. Whilst the latter is an everyday object, which in being signed by the artist becomes an art object, the unsigned canvas on leaving the spaces of art (the studio, the gallery) becomes just one more object amongst an everyday world of unsigned objects.”

The two galleries – bechter kastowsky and Vayhinger – are acting as an intermediary space, as a bridge between the art world and a world “out there,” where the painted canvas without signature and categorization become what they were originally were – just canvas and pigment. The artist urges visitors to spend time reflecting on this intriguing concept in which economic value confronts aesthetic value whilst highlighting the mechanisms of the art market. Beeby himself does not comment on his experiment, he leaves that up to the audience. The reaction in Berlin ranged from amusement via discomfort to anger, because it has to cost something! – or does it?

The works on offer are from the series "Inks," canvases involving often cursory interventions, which has been ongoing since 2012, and was begun prior to the parameters of this project. Beeby uses an airbrush in an unconventional manner in generating ink marks on the canvases. The results are flows propelled across the surface the residual traces of now absent forces.

What is the value of a work that nobody has paid for and that does not exist within the historical record? Perhaps at first glance, it appears to be a charade with an uncertain punch line, an ironic experiment. But looking again it also becomes a contemporarily research project employing critical insight.

Tim Beeby Giving Away Work

Paula Watzl

1010 Vienna  | Parnass June 6 2018