If a famous artist, let’s say Picasso, was to walk into your store and say, “Listen, I want to buy this here thing, but I’ve got no money. How’s about I just scratch out a little dove on a piece of paper, sign my name on it and call it a day?” You’d be well advised to nod, give the man his goods and send him on his way. Artist Billy Apple has been bartering to pay the bills for years. In 2005 he famously exchanged an artwork for legal services performed by Minter Ellison to the tune of $100,000 (the work explicitly stated its own value). Another exhibition, I’m told, involved the artist signing household bills that collectors snapped up at face value – if a power account had $359.81 owing, that’s how much the artwork cost. (A friend of mine has a $170 Billy Apple speeding ticket.) Kiwi tailors Crane Brothers are the latest recipients of Apple’s attentions. Murray Crane began making clothes for the artist’s retrospective exhibition held in London last year, and in payment, Apple created BESPOKE A barter between Billy Apple and Crane Brothers. Why beat around the bush?
The hero garment was a lightweight blazer in Crespi navy cotton with bone button detail, made for the Northern Hemisphere summer. According to Murray Crane, “Billy is well known for his barter, it is a well-documented aspect of his work. Billy is fixated on function and form and likes the tailoring process as he feels it draws a parallel with his own work. He was very much involved in the whole process.” Accompanying the artwork is a postcard featuring a photograph of Billy Apple taken by Robert Freeman in 1963.
Artworks traditionally appreciate with age, but the same can’t be said for used clothing. No disrespect to Murray Crane’s suits, but methinks the tailor may have gotten the better deal in this arrangement.
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