A surprise act of art market anarchy took place just outside the entrance to the exclusive gala VIP opening night at Paris Photo 2009 last week. While the crowd of well-dressed international art collectors began to enter the giant hall at the Louvre, dozens of pranksters quickly dumped thousands and thousands of anonymous vintage photos into a giant heap, and tossed handfuls of photographs in the air. “Free, free, free!”
Even in this art-loving socialist capital, this act caused a momentary cognitive disconnect:
Inside, a single rare photograph could fetch a price of 40,000 euros ($60,000) or more. Outside this heap of interesting (and potentially) precious gems were free for the taking. You just had to get down on your hands and knees and shuffle through the stack to find something that spoke to you. Nobody else assigned a value to any of these photos.
It was like a feeding frenzy. And it was quite evident that some people were torn between spending all evening crawling on the floor in search of some personal treasures — or going inside to sip champagne and look at some of the best work available in today’s official international art market.
The gleeful perpetrators recorded their “happening” for YouTube. Vive la France!