Couch, Clock and Portfolio
Each year, the ENSBA (Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts) organizes an exhibition presenting the work of students who graduate with honours.
The school contributes to the preparation of the exhibition by allocating 700 euros to each graduate for the creation of a new artwork. Hugo Kriegel decides to invest those 700 euros in the stock market: a way of showing ‘money at work’.
Artprice, an online art price database, is his choice.
The school, which depends on the Ministry of Culture informs him that the Ministerial regulation forbids the purchase of petrol and other raw materials, transport titles, but also financial products.
Therefore, the artist elaborates a strategy to bypass the regulation, while also revealing its absurdity. He uses the allocation of 700 euros to buy a couch. This piece of furniture symbolizes and materializes the allocation awarded by the school, but it also has a practical interest: the exhibition visitors can rest on it for a moment.
The couch is immediately resold and the purchaser transfers usufruct for the duration of the exhibition. The 700 euros made available through the resale of the couch are finally used to purchase the 26 shares of Artprice.
The graphs pinned to the wall of the exhibition room present weekly curves representing the fluctuations of the 26 shares values. Each week, the portfolio shows a new curve corresponding to the gains and losses of the investment.
Sitting on the couch, the visitor faces two television screens: the first one shows the Boursorama web page. They can thus follow in real time the official increases and decreases of the Artprice shares.
On the second screen is displayed the ‘Human Clock’, an artwork created in May 2008. You can see the artist painstakingly drawing the time on a window with white spray foam, minute by minute, for 24 hours.
During the exhibition, the minutes appear on the screen in real time, thus coinciding with the time displayed on the Boursorama web page. On one hand, Hugo gesticulates and wears himself out by working in vain, and on the other hand, money invested in financial speculation ‘works’ instead of the artist, and can generate profit.
Kriegel carries out a transfer: he brings on the art scene what usually is of a financial nature.
The installation Couch, Clock and Portfolio sees the funny side of the multifaceted nature of money by showing us the successive steps of its transformation: first, it is pure potential (an allocation), then material (a couch) and at last an abstraction made visible (curves representing changing market shares).
Furthermore, Kriegel bypasses the school’s requirements. He circumvents them in order to reveal the workings of a system that is usually invisible. With this installation, the allocation doesn’t only allow to create an artwork: it is its very material.
The goal of this financial investment is obviously not to generate profit: it is a symbolic gesture.
The funding of an artwork, the conditions of its production, its artistic value, monetary valuation, position in the art market and selling: the artist invites us to look a little more closely at the underlying issues of any artwork.
It would be possible to see in Couch, Clock and Portfolio a cyclic structure: the better the market does, the better Artprice does and the more Kriegel’s artwork increases in value, nourishing in turn the market.
Nevertheless, let us argue that the artistic and financial value of the installation remains independent from the intrinsic value of the 26 shares. As it turned out, the invested capital decreased in value by the end of the exhibition. However, the installation was very successful.