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Boggs: A Comedy of Values [Paperback]

Lawrence Weschler
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 15 2000 Comedy of Values
In this highly entertaining book, Lawrence Weschler chronicles the antics of J. S. G. Boggs, an artist whose consuming passion is money, or perhaps more precisely, value. Boggs draws money-paper notes in standard currencies from all over the world-and tries to spend his drawings. It is a practice that regularly lands him in trouble with treasury police around the globe and provokes fundamental questions regarding the value of art and the value of money.

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From Amazon

James Stephen George Boggs is not a con artist, he's a talented artist who deftly renders his own currency and "spends" it. Struck by the value of money, and what paper notes represent, he draws U.S. dollar bills, English pound notes, Swiss francs, and other forms of paper money; then he barters his illustrious artwork in lieu of cash to willing merchants who agree to honor his currency for services and products. In Boggs: A Comedy of Values, Lawrence Weschler, author of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award-winning book Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, documents Boggs's whimsical antics, offering a quirky and lively meditation on the value of currency and workmanship and a richly informative (albeit brief) social history of money.

Boggs does not sell his "money" directly, as Weschler learns, nor does he attempt to pass his drawings off as actual bills. For Boggs, the elaborate transaction of negotiation is a crucial element in his work, and the tangible proof of his success--receipts and proper change--is included in the final product. Of course, treasury departments from around the world are anything but pleased; the second half of the book deals extensively with the artist's court battle with the Bank of England. As Weschler notes, Boggs is not the first to question the value of money through art (Larry Rivers, Pablo Picasso, Timm Ulrichs, Adolf Wölfi, and Jurgen Harten are just some artists who have put currency to the test), but the author finds in Boggs's work an ideal subject for opening a probing inquiry into the economy of money, especially timely at the end of the 20th century as paper currency--which once directly represented precious-metal coins--evolves into "binary sequences of pulses racing between computers." --Kera Bolonik --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Just what is money worth? Or, what is the value of value? Funny questions, maybe, but they are central to the figure at the heart of Weschler's latest paper chase of a profile. J.S.G. Boggs is a slow-change artist. He draws legal tenderAwith varying degrees of realismAand attempts to spend it: at restaurants, hotels, airports, convenience stores and galleries around the world. He has been arrested for his aesthetic endeavors, stalked by British treasury cops, had his work confiscated by the Secret Service and been detained by baffled proprietors. Boggs's artAa brand of conceptual performance with roots in Duchamp and WarholAis contingent upon the abysses of logic that open up when people are asked to accept his counterfeit bills not as actual money (Boggs isn't a con man), but as art. As art, of course, they are worth something. An anomaly, if not a minor celebrity, in certain corners of the art world, Boggs serves Weschler well as a springboard for thoughts on the protean nature of both art and money. With meandering brilliance and levity, Weschler delves not only into the outlandish antics of Boggs the provocateur, but also into the history of banking, the development of paper money and the valuation of art. One of the great, and usually convincing, spinners of true tales that seem tall, Weschler writes in an erudite yet nimble styleAitself a great service to the popularization of ideas. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
J. S. G. BOGGS is a young artist with a certain flair, a certain panache, a certain je ne paye pas. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
I've admired Lawrence Wechsler's work for many years. My first exposure to it may have been his first piece on JSG Boggs in The New Yorker, a piece that's part of this anthology.
This book is somewhat cobbled together. It collects a handful of Mr. Wechsler's articles on Boggs (as he prefers to be called), and not all the articles are of equal heft or merit. But the story of Boggs is sufficiently quirky and intellectually provoking, I found myself captivated by these pieces all over again.
Boggs, through Wechsler (who is an excellent reporter and accomplished writer), challenges the reader to ponder value, art, and how one thinks about money. When artists begin talking theory and the intellectual foundation of their work, I usually get off the bus, but not this time. Boggs, under his somewhat bent personality (and I mean that as a compliment), is genuinely thoughtful, and provocative in the best way.
I urge you to read this book, and to seek other of Mr. Wechsler's work, most of which seems to be available again.
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2.0 out of 5 stars An interesting look at Money May 4 2000
What is money? This book explores that seemingly simple question as explored through the art of Boggs. Reading this book leads one to realize that figuring out money is not simple at all. The reader must think about all sorts of uncomfortable questions like: What is value? How do you know what something is worth? Why is money worth anything?
I found the most interesting parts of this book to be those detailing the transactions where Boggs attempted to spend his art. Those transactions were fascinating. (I'm still amazed by one clerk who looks at a Boggs drawing and says that it's worth far more that five dollars but still refurses to accept it in lieu of five dollars.) The decriptions of Boggs' on going legal entanglement are similarly stimulating. However this book has some dry sections where the author details the history of art and money.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Art as money - a great story. May 16 2003
The debate about what constitutes value has been tackled numerous times, but this may be the most humorous and interesting take on the subject. JSG Boggs shoves the question of value into our faces by drawing money and trying to pass it off - not as real money, but as real value. The book follows Boggs as he takes his "what is value" sideshow on the road, and into several court appearances. By the end, you'll see money in a whole new light as Boggs rides into the sunset with a pocket full of "cash."
The book loses its touch (and its uniqueness) when Mr. Weschler wanders into a generic discussion of the history of money. Overall, the author's treatment does just what it should - get out of the way and let Boggs paint a marvelous story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly scattered, but very interesting Aug. 31 2000
The story told in this book is fasccinating -- of a man whose art directly addresses the questions: what is money? what does money mean to us? how does money work? Boggs is an artist who creates beuatiful work, and does it in a way that it also drives to the heart of the American monetary system. The transactional part of his art is fascinating, and is told in an engaging amnner in this book.
The book suffers from being an enlargement of a fascinating article on the same subject. The borders between the original material and that added to make it a book-length piece are sometimes glaring. The book would have been more successful if the text were limited to the original article, and the collection of images were expanded.
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