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
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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.
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