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Selected Moments in the History of Economic Art

1924 – Marcel Duchamp issues Monte Carlo Gambling Bond


The Monte Carlo Gambling Bond [Obligations pour la roulette de Monte Carlo] was a small edition Marcel Duchamp made using cut-and-pasted gelatin silver prints on a lithograph with letterpress. The Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal (MDSOJ) describes the bond:

A parody of a financial document in a system for playing roulette, this Readymade revolves around the idea of monetary transactions. Giving himself the position of Administrator, Marcel Duchamp conceived of a joint stock company designed to raise 15,000 francs and thus “break the bank in Monte Carlo”. It was to be divided into 30 numbered bonds for which Duchamp asked 500 francs each. However, less than eight were actually assembled[...].

Perhaps in an effort to make the bond appear legitimate, Duchamp printed the following extracts from the Company Statutes on the reverse side:

Clause No. 1. The aims of the company are:
1. Exploitation of roulette in Monte Carlo under the following conditions.
2. Exploitation of Trente-et-Quarante and other mines on the Cote Azur, as may be decided by the Board of Directors.

Clause No. 2. The annual income is derived from a cumulative system which is experimentally based on one hundred thousand rolls of the ball; the system is the exclusive property of the Board of Directors.
The application of this system to simple chance is such that a dividend of 20% is allowed.

Clause No. 3. The Company shall be entitled, should the shareholders to declare, to buy back all or part of the shares issued, not later than one month after the dare of the decision.

Clause No. 4. Payment of dividends shall take place on March 1 each year or on a twice yearly basis, in accordance with the wished of the shareholders (Schwarz 703).

The MDSOJ concludes, “In the end, the artist’s elaborate financial system did not work, and Duchamp eventually admitted that he never really did win anything.”



1961 – Piero Manzoni cans his own shit and sells it for its weight in gold


In May of 1961, Italian artist Piero Manzoni produced ninety cans of Artist’s Shit. Each numbered can had a text in Italian, English, French, and German that identified the contents as “Artist’s Shit, contents 30gr net freshly preserved, produced and tinned in May 1961.” Sophie Howarth writes, “The Merda d’artista, the artist’s shit, dried naturally and canned ‘with no added preservatives’, was the perfect metaphor for the bodied and disembodied nature of artistic labour: the work of art as fully incorporated raw material, and its violent expulsion as commodity.”

It is unclear how many buyers this work found in Manzoni’s own lifetime but in the years since his death the work continues to problematize the absurdity of the speculative art market in a way that a work like Damien Hirst’s recent diamond-encrusted skull, which contains raw materials that have obvious proven value, does not. Merda d’artista is a necessarily diminutive object. The can is not larger than it needs to be in order to contain a single bowel movement. Merda d’artista is prone to rusting, its label is fragile and it has none of the majestic presence that a giant painting or bronze sculpture might hold. As such, it is a particularly well-suited object to frame the question of where value lies in art. Is it in the idea? Is it in the artist’s fame and the importance of being first to have the idea? Is it in the gesture of buying shit in order to support an artist so they can buy food, eat it, digest it, make more art, and live to shit again? And once Manzoni died, what does it mean to speculate on the value of a dead artist’s shit? Or is the can and the signature on the label what people like to think they are paying for? The selling and reselling of Merda d’artista brings into focus the issue of how many collectors, gallerists, and auction houses put far more value on what an artist has done after they are dead than when they were alive and really needed direct support.

By putting an artist’s shit on the same value scale as gold, Merda d’artista suggests myriad pricing possibilities that artists might use to create additional meanings or relationships in their work. Some examples are pricing a work of art for the equivalent cost of the artist’s home or studio rent during the time they spent making the work, or paying an uninsured artist’s medical bill for an injury or illness sustained during the making of their art.

Source: “Artist’s Shit, Piero Manzoni,” by Sophie Howarth at (search for Piero Manzoni).


1966 – Fluxus art movement founding member George Maciunas begins buying real estate in the SoHo section of New York City


“In 1966, Maciunas began buying several loft buildings from closing manufacturing companies in SoHo with financial support from the J. M. Kaplan Foundation and the National Foundation for the Arts. Maciunas envisioned the buildings as Fluxhouse cooperatives, collective living environments composed of artists working in many different mediums. By converting tumbledown buildings into lofts and living space, Maciunas pioneered SoHo as a haven for artists. The rennovation and occupancies violated the M-I zoning laws that designated Soho as a non-residential area, however, and when Kaplan left the project to embark on his own artist cooperative buildings in Greenwich Village, Maciunas was left with little support against the law. Maciunas continued the co-op despite contravening planning laws, and began a series of increasingly bizarre run-ins with the Attorney General of New York. Strategies included sending postcards from around the world via associates and friends to persuade the authorities that he was abroad, and placing razor-sharp guillotine blades onto his front door to avoid unwanted visitors. The Fluxhouse cooperatives are often cited as playing a major role in regenerating and gentrifying SoHo.

An argument with an electrician over unpaid bills resulted in a severe beating, allegedly by ‘Mafia thugs’, on November 8, 1975, which left him with 4 broken ribs, a deflated lung, thirty-six stitches in his head, and blind in one eye. He left New York shortly after, to attempt to start a Fluxus-oriented arts center in a dilapidated mansion and stud farm in New Marlborough, Massachusetts.”

Sources: Wikipedia entry on George Maciunas at and biography by Steve Shelokhonov. See also “ Streetscapes: 80 Wooster Street; The Irascible ‘Father’ of SoHo”, by Christopher Gray, published in the New York Times, Sunday, March 15, 1992.


1969 – Ed Kienholz makes watercolors to use as a bartering tool


“As he liked to tell the story, the assemblage artist Ed Kienholz was repairing a rifle back in 1969 when he found he needed a different size screwdriver to finish the job. Rather optimistically, the California artist painted an abstract watercolor and stamped the words FOR TEN SCREWDRIVERS across it in black. Within a week, a neighbor had spotted the picture at Kienholz’s house and offered to make the exchange. Thus began the artist’s groundbreaking, but to this day critically undervalued, series of watercolor trades.

He continued the series for years, creating paintings stamped with FOR A 4-WHEEL-DRIVE DATSUN JEEP when he needed a car or with FOR 2 GOOD MOUNTAIN HORSES to obtain four-legged transport. He painted for a haircut when he was getting shaggy and for a fur coat to get a shaggy garment, presumably to give away. Each has a colored background and bears the artist’s signature and thumbprint in the corner.

‘There were so many trades, it’s hard to remember them all,’ says his widow, the artist Nancy Kienholz. ‘He traded these watercolors for a sauna, for a gun, for a mattress and box spring, for “a new Nikon for Nancy.” And he’d trade anything – property, cars. He traded guns with the milkmen to get milk. He loved the game of it. He was the king of bartering.’“

Source: “Tales of the Trade” by Jori Finkel at


1969 – Guerrilla Art Action Group takes the Museum of Modern Art in New York to task for the pro-Vietnam War corporate activities of members of the Board of Directors


With support from the Action Committee of the Art Workers’ Coalition, Guerrilla Art Action Group (GAAG) performed Blood Bath in the Museum of Modern Art’s lobby on November 18, 1969. Jon Hendricks, Poppy Johnson, Jean Toche, and Silvianna Goldsmith entered the museum at 3:10 p.m. on a Tuesday wearing street clothes for the women and suits and ties for the men.

Inside their clothing, they hid two gallons of beef blood distributed in plastic bags taped to their bodies. The artists walked to the center of the lobby and threw one hundred copies of their demands to the floor. This statement insisted that the Rockefeller brothers, who owned considerable percentages of multiple companies that were profiting from Vietnam war-related labor and weapons manufacturing, resign from the Board of Directors at MoMA.

Having strewn their statement, the four GAAG members began to shout at and violently attack each other, causing the bags of blood to burst as they ripped at each other’s clothing. A crowd gathered and the action slowly moved from a tone of violence to anguish as the artists writhed on the floor, moaning before eventually going silent. The artists eventually rose to their feet (the crowd that stood watching applauded) and dressed in overcoats that covered the bloody remnants of their clothes. Two policemen arrived after the artists left.


1971 – Bob Projansky and Seth Siegelaub create The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement


Seth Siegelaub, an art dealer, exhibition organizer, publisher, and researcher, started working for the Sculpture Center in New York in the early 1960s, and gradually evolved into a more independent and politically minded curator and booster of a variety of conceptual and boundary-pushing artists as he pursued his own activities. This turn to self-organization resulted in various exhibitions, projects, and books including the Xeroxbook published in December of 1968. In 1970, Siegelaub started International General, a publishing house devoted to distributing his publications as well as innovative work by N.E. Thing Co., Lawrence Weiner, and many others.

The Stichting Egress Foundation, keepers of Siegelaub’s archives, write: “…Towards the late 1960s, as part of the politicization of the art world he became active in anti-war activities in the art community as part of the growing mobilization against the U.S. war against Vietnam, including in July 1971 a fund-raising collection catalogue for the United States Serviceman Fund, an organization set up to promote free speech within the U.S. military, and which was especially engaged in anti-Vietnam War activity by means of the funding and support of G.I. newspapers and cultural actions. This activity led to his increasing involvement in the political aspects of art and in 1971, he originated, and then drafted with lawyer Robert Projansky, what is known as the ‘Artist’s Contract’, The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement, which defined and attempted to protect the rights and interests of the artist as their work circulated within the art world system.”

The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement is a form that can be used in any sale or transfer of contemporary art, and artists and collectors continue to use it as a guide for their transactions.

Source: The agreement itself as well as a lengthy introduction from Siegelaub himself is available from the group Primary Information at The Siegelaub archives are referenced at the Stichting Egress Foundation’s website,


1971 – Hans Haacke’s Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, A Real Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971 exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum is canceled before it opens


This installation by artist Hans Haacke consisted of maps, photos, transactions and documents focusing on the apartments owned by Harry Shapolsky, a Manhattan slumlord, and transactions he conducted between 1951-71. Another work by Haacke that was to be shown at the Guggenheim in the same one-person exhibition was Sol Goldman and Alex DiLorenzo Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, a Real-Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971, which included a map of Manhattan marking the locations of properties held in 1971 by the largest non-institutional real-estate group in Manhattan, photographs of the buildings, and a list of the corporations operating them.

These pieces used systems-based creative practices common in Conceptual Art to expose information that caused great tension within the museum’s upper ranks and led to the firing of curator Edward F. Fry when Haacke refused to withdraw the works. The exhibit was canceled six weeks before it was set to open. Michael Brenson, in a December 19, 1986, piece on Haacke in the New York Times noted that when the Guggenheim heard about the Shapolsky piece, “Thomas Messer, the director of the museum, wrote the artist that museum policies ‘exclude active engagement towards social and political ends.’”

Source: “Art: in political tone, works by Hans Haacke,” by Michael Brenson in the New York Times, December 19, 1986 and


1972 – Artist-run restaurant FOOD publishes the “FOOD’s Family Fiscal Facts” in Avalanche


In the fourth issue of the journal Avalanche, the SoHo-based New York restaurant Food published their “Fiscal Facts” as a full-page advertisement. In addition to expenditures like salaries, rent, phone and electric bills, and advertising, the document also lists the quantities of ingredients (including 1,914 lbs. of butter, 2,300 tortillas pressed, five cubic feet of bay leaves) and more surprising entries like one truck ruined, one closing order from health department, one box of toothpicks, 84% workers are artists, 1,175 notices taped to windows, ninety-nine workers, ninety-nine cut fingers, and much more. In a single page, this extensive list remains one of the most evocative records of this spirited and creative business enterprise that was led by artists Carol Goodden, Gordon Matta-Clark, Tina Girouard and others.

Source: “Other Options: A Closer Look at FOOD,” by Ben Schaafsma, in the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest issue 6,


1973 – Martha Rosler stages Garage Sale in the art gallery at University of California, San Diego


In this early work, Rosler adopted the vernacular form of the garage sale to interrogate ideas about value, biography and aesthetics. She states, “…my sale included unlikely items, such as empty boxes and welfare commodity containers, private letters and photos, cast-off underwear, girlie magazines, dead landscaping materials, broken household items and a notebook listing the names of men. The gallery was arranged so that the brightest lighting and the best items were at the front, and the questionable, less saleable, more personal, and even salacious items were located further back as the lighting progressively diminished, leading finally to the empty containers and other abject items. A tape recorder played a ‘meditation’ by the garage sale ‘persona’ I had adopted — dressed in a long-skirted hippie costume — wondering aloud what the garage sale represents and quoting Marx on the commodity form. A projector showed images of blonde middle-class families, at home and on trips, on slides bought at a local garage sale of the effects of a dead man. A blackboard bore the phrase, ‘Maybe the garage sale is a metaphor for the mind.’” Rosler advertised the exhibition as a garage sale in local newspapers and as an art event in the art community.

Sources: “The Garage Sale is a Metaphor for the Mind: A Conversation between Martha Rosler and Jens Hoffmann”, in The Everyday (Documents of Contemporary Art series), edited by Stephen Johnstone for Whitechapel & the MIT Press, 2008. See also the press release from the 2005 showing of Rosler’s work at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (


1975 – Don Celender compiles and publishes the results of an informal survey Opinions of Working People Concerning the Arts


While teaching a course called “Art of the Last Ten Years”, artist and art historian, Don Celender had Macalester College students solicit written and recorded opinions from 400 working people in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota area. The result is a book (published for an exhibition at O.K. Harris Gallery in New York City) that includes the responses of maids, bus drivers, hotel clerks, bartenders, gas station attendants, security officers, roofers, cab drivers, and more. Among the questions answered are: “Do you think art is important to American life? Why?” “Should tax money be spent to assist artists in producing works of art?” “Do you go to museums?” “What do you like best at museums? What do you like least?” “Do you think artists are responsible citizens?” “Do you think artists, as a group, have a particular political position?” and “Would you pay as much for a work of art as you would for your car? Your TV? A dress, or suit?”

Each survey result is accompanied by a photo of the participant along with their name, age, occupation, and residence. Though most of the responses are brief and not extremely detailed, the book is not only a fascinating window into the thoughts of working people on the arts, but an engaging participatory work of art itself.


1979 – Chris Burden broadcasts Send Me Your Money on KPFK Radio, Los Angeles

On March 21, 1979, Chris Burden went live on the air and spent nearly an hour suggesting that people think about sending him money. The program was part of a series titled Close Radio that consisted of a weekly half-hour program of sound projects by artists. Close Radio lasted from 1976-79. Burden’s piece, which violated FCC regulations for nonprofit media, was reputed to have been the final straw that got the challenging series kicked off the air.

Listen: Send Me Your Money

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We transcribed Send Me Your Money for the newspaper. You can read the transcription here: Send Me Your Money.

Sources: The broadcast can be heard in the Ubu archives at Information on Close Radio and the Burden piece can be found in Doug Harvey’s review, “Corpsefucker Makes Good: up the hill backwards with John Duncan and Paul McCarthy,” L.A. Weekly, July 26, 2007:


1979 – The Real Estate Show


On December 30, a group of artists break into a city-owned building on New York’s Lower East Side. They mount an exhibition about housing and real estate in New York. The show is quickly shut down by the police. The closure gets an enormous amount of media coverage. The artist Joseph Beuys shows up and creates even more of a spectacle with his presence. The city eventually gives the artists the building at 156 Rivington Street in exchange for a promise not to break into the building where The Real Estate Show was set up. The 156 Rivington building eventually becomes the fabled anti-space ABC No Rio.

Source: The original statement by the organizers of The Real Estate Show can be found on ABC No Rio’s website,



1983 – David Hammons stages Bliz-aard Ball Sale in New York City


Like much of David Hammons’ work, Bliz-aard Ball Sale starts with a minor gesture. On a snowy winter day, Hammons stood in a heavy coat behind a blanket with an array of snowballs, arranged like a Minimalist grid and presented in descending order by size. It is unknown whether the artist actually sold any snowballs, but making sales probably wasn’t the point. The piece mirrored the gray market economies that were common in New York in the early 1980s. It was particularly common then to see people laying blankets or sheets on the sidewalk and offering up various items for sale that had been scavenged from the trash. The objects were often as abundant and worthless as snow on a winter day. When police forced the vendors to move, they could simply pull up all four corners of the sheet or blanket and be on their way.

Standing behind his snowballs, Hammons sold an image that he has adopted many times since: the artist as a clever, knowing jester. With Bliz-aard Ball Sale, Hammons gave the public direct access on the street by being bodily present in a way that he frequently denies the art world, where he is more reclusive.

Source: More on David Hammons and the Bliz-aard Ball Sale in the March 2009 Frieze article, “A Fraction of the Whole,” by Steven Stern:


1984 – J.S.G. Boggs begins to exchange hand-made money for goods and services


J.S.G. Boggs has spent over $250,000 in hand-drawn variations on the local currency wherever he is based. After eating a meal, selecting an item, or receiving a service, he attempts to exchange his hand-made bills for goods and services that he wishes to purchase. Each transaction requires the recipient to consider whether his art is desirable enough to replace the money that they may then have to spend out of their own pocket in order to acquire Boggs’ work. There is a further component to the transaction when collectors of Boggs’ work have to personally negotiate with the owners of the bills in order to acquire his pieces. If someone buys this work outright, Boggs also includes the change he gets back, his purchase receipt and other ephemera from the transaction.

Though there is always a clear disclosure that he is exchanging art for goods and services, Boggs has repeatedly been arrested for counterfeiting in the USA and abroad. The U.S. Secret Service has raided his home and confiscated much of his artwork but he has never been formally charged.



1985 – Guerrilla Girls group forms to combat sexual, racial and economic inequality in the arts


Members of the anonymous group conceal their identities by wearing gorilla masks and adopting the names of deceased women artists (with the exception of one member, who didn’t like the artist-name idea and goes by “Guerilla Girl1”). From an interview in their first book, Confessions of the Guerrilla Girls:

Q. How did the Guerrilla Girls start?

Kathe Kollwitz: In 1985, The Museum of Modern Art in New York opened an exhibition titled An International Survey of Painting and Sculpture. It was supposed to be an up-to-the minute summary of the most significant contemporary art in the world. Out of 169 artists, only thirteen were women. All the artists were white, either from Europe or the US. That was bad enough, but the curator, Kynaston McShine, said any artist who wasn’t in the show should rethink ‘his’ career. And that really annoyed a lot of artists because obviously the guy was completely prejudiced. Women demonstrated in front of the museum with the usual placards and picket line. Some of us who attended were irritated that we didn’t make any impression on passersby.

Meta Fuller: We began to ask ourselves some questions. Why did women and artists of color do better in the 1970s than in the 1980s? Was there a backlash in the art world? Who was responsible? What could be done about it?

Q. What did you do?

Frida Kahlo: We decided to find out how bad it was. After about five minutes of research we found that it was worse than we thought: the most influential galleries and museums exhibited almost no women artists. When we showed the figures around, some said it was an issue of quality, not prejudice. Others admitted there was discrimination, but considered the situation hopeless. Everyone in positions of power curators, critics, collectors, the artists themselves passed the buck. The artists blamed the dealers, the dealers blamed the collectors, the collectors blamed the critics, and so on. We decided to embarrass each group by showing their records in public. Those were the first posters we put up in the streets of SoHo in New York.

Q. Why are you anonymous?

Guerrilla Girl1: The art world is a very small place. Of course, we were afraid that if we blew the whistle on some of its most powerful people, we could kiss off our art careers. But mainly, we wanted the focus to be on the issues, not on our personalities or our own work.



1993 – David Avalos, Louis Hock and Elizabeth Sisco create Art Rebate

For a commission by the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego and Centro Cultural de la Raza as part of the La Frontera/The Border exhibition, these artists used the bulk of their project budget to refund $10 bills to 450 undocumented workers along the San Diego, California and Mexico border. The project demonstrated the role of illegal immigrants in the national economy. Many of those who were given money immediately spent it at local businesses. English and Spanish fliers printed by the artists stated, “This $10 bill is part of an art project that intends to return tax dollars to taxpayers, particularly ‘undocumented taxpayers’. The art rebate acknowledges your role as a vital player in an economic community indifferent to national borders.” The project infuriated many, including Republican California Representative Randy (Duke) Cunningham, who called the project “outrageous” and wrote the National Endowment for the Arts that he could “scarcely imagine a more contemptuous use of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.”

Source: “Art Dollars for Me, $10 for You, $10 for You,” by Seth Mydans. New York Times, August 12, 1993,


1993 – Haha opens FLOOD in a Chicago storefront


Members of the Chicago-based artist group Haha lost a lot of friends to the HIV virus during the AIDS crisis. They were not satisfied with how the crisis was being addressed by the government, activists, or artists, and decided to initiate FLOOD. Haha’s hugely important (though frequently overlooked) work FLOOD was provided as a series of services to others. FLOOD had its headquarters in a storefront space in Rogers Park, the northernmost neighborhood of Chicago. In the space’s front room, the group built a hydroponic garden, which was used to grow produce that was then delivered to people living with HIV/AIDS. Raising food hydroponically kept the produce free of soil-borne bacteria – some of which could be harmful, if not deadly, to people with compromised immune systems. This was at a time before protease inhibitors, when medication to treat the virus was less effective than today’s generation of antiviral drugs. There were raised-bed demonstration gardens outside, in front and back. There was a meeting area at the back of the space, with racks of informational literature lining one wall. The space was used on nearly a daily basis for meetings, raising food, demonstrating growing techniques to children and adult passers-by, and hosted many, many conversations with a range of visitors. FLOOD lasted for well over three years in several locations.



1997 – Conrad Bakker initiates Untitled Projects


Working under the name Untitled Projects, Urbana, Illinois-based artist Conrad Bakker uses coarsely carved and painted wood simulations of mostly commercially available objects and playfully introduces them into a variety of social, institutional, and economic spaces. Pricing in Bakker’s replicas is generally appropriate to the price of the original. Replicas of vintage Tupperware were placed on eBay (in the vintage Tupperware sales category) at starting prices that mirror the typical prices that vintage Tupperware brings. In Untitled Projects: GARAGE SALE (1997), Bakker used a residential lawn in Grand Rapids, Michigan to present hand-carved replicas of one hundred common domestic items on hand-carved tables and desks. For Untitled Projects: CONSUMER ACTIONS (KMART) (2002), Bakker hand-copied items for sale in the store, placed them on the shelves alongside the source products, took photos of their juxtapositions and then left the art works to drift. In Untitled Projects: MIXTAPESWAP (2003), exhibition viewers and others who participated by mail were invited to exchange a real audio cassette mix tape with Bakker for a hand-made replica. For Untitled Projects: FREE [TV] (2003), Bakker carved and painted a wood copy of an existing TV with a “Free” sign taped to its screen and left it in the lobby of an art museum. The TV was claimed within twenty minutes. In Untitled Projects: SIDEWALK ECONOMIES (2005), Bakker placed carved and painted replicas of arbitrary debris like plastic cups, orange peels, and rubber bands around the Mission District of San Francisco and the resulting situations were photographed and presented as documentation. For Untitled Projects: VHS RENTAL [Slacker] (2005), Bakker made thirty-two wood and paint copies of the Richard Linklater film Slacker (made in Austin, Texas) and presented them in a gallery in the same city. Viewers could rent the wood tapes for $4 for the first three nights.



1998 – Minerva Cuevas begins working as Mejor Vida Corp. (MVC)


Mejor Vida Corp. (Better Life Corporation) is self-described as a non-profit corporation that “creates, promotes and distributes world wide products and services for free.” One of MVC’s first subversive projects was a free international student ID card (“The MVC Student ID Card can be used internationally to obtain free or reduced museum admissions, public transportation, travel accommodation, other IDs, discounts on airfares, as well as many other benefits”). MVC has also made barcode stickers that reduce the price of food at supermarket chains like Safeway. In a collaboration with various institutions since 2000, MVC has provided free letters of recommendation. “Anyone can request a recommendation letter issued by MVC or institutions collaborating with us.” Among the participating institutions are: The Gallery Chantal Crousel (Paris, France), The Lisson Gallery (London, UK) and Hartware MedienKunstVerein (Germany). MVC projects commonly utilize institutional resources and place them into the service of the public, creating generous situations that would be unlikely to occur without an artist’s intervention.



2000 – ®™ark starts Mutual Funds


The entity ®™ark is legally defined as “…a brokerage that benefits from ‘limited liability’ just like any other corporation; using this principle, ®TMark supports the sabotage (informative alteration) of corporate products, from dolls and children’s learning tools to electronic action games, by channeling funds from investors to workers for specific projects grouped into ‘mutual funds’.” Mutual Funds was an umbrella for several smaller funds for interventionists and activist art projects. Some of these included The War Fund, The Intellectual Property Rights Fund, and The High Risk Fund. Mutual Funds advanced ®™ark’s goals of supporting efforts that used “…non-violent, non-branded tactics primarily aimed at disrupting the political and consumer culture through acts of détournement and poetic terrorism.” People seeking funds could post their ideas and the community that formed around ®™ark could support those ideas through donations.

Sources: and


2007 – Collective Foundation issues three Collective Grants


The Collective Foundation (CF) describes itself as “…a research and development organization offering services to artists and arts organizations. The Collective Foundation focuses on fostering mutually beneficial exchange and collective action by designing practical structures and utilizing new web-based technologies. Ultimately the central concern of the Collective Foundation is to serve as an ongoing experimental process and catalyst for new ideas. CF proposes ‘bottom-up’ and decentralized forms of organization and investigates the formation and distribution of resources. This means inventing new forms of funding and new ways of working together. Like the Art Workers’ Coalition, who proposed pragmatic solutions to problems faced by artists, the Collective Foundation seeks alternative operational solutions, while reducing the bureaucratic formalities of overhead and administration.”

In 2007, this San Francisco-based group issued three separate $500 grants to artists using a variety of creative fundraising strategies. For the Collective Library Grant, Collective Foundation solicited donations of 100 art catalogs from ten area art spaces that were sold as one Collective Library. Sales of the library paid for an artist grant to facilitate research and participation for a web-based audio project that Collective Foundation hosts. Uncirculated or old exhibition catalogs are a very common surplus item at art spaces. A particularly sweet result of this sale was that the library was purchased not by an individual for private consumption, but by the San José Institute for Contemporary Art, which turned the books into a reading room.

The $500 YBCA Grant drew money from three separate sources in conjunction with an exhibit that Collective Foundation participated in at the Yerba Buena Center for Art (YBCA). Memberships sold during the exhibit opening, part of the sales from the Co-op Bar (another CF project created with artist Steve Lambert), and some of the sales from CF’s printing press generated a $500 grant for an artist. The final jurors of the grant consisted of YBCA guards.

The $500 Collective Hosting grant generates funds from fees paid by artists who host their websites on CF’s web server, paying a $100.00 fee into a fund used for grants rather than giving it to an internet service provider. Those who pay into the fund then become the jurors for the grant.


This list is only partial. We would love it if readers shared links to other work and projects. Please feel free to use the comments to do this.

4 Comments on “Selected Moments in the History of Economic Art”

  1. 1 Titia Hulst said at 11:28 am on February 10th, 2010:

    This is a great list! I suggest you also look at Eric Doeringer’s project at who addresses the commercialization of the art world by producing unauthorized copies of popular artworks by more than 100 different contemporary artists, who are ‘hot’ in the market.

  2. 2 Rebekah Modrak said at 6:04 am on February 11th, 2010:

    What a great publication!
    You may be interested in eBayaday, a project I co-curated a few years ago in which we invited 24 artists to create eBay listings as artworks that utilized the auction site’s potential in the exchange of ideas, objects and money.

  3. 3 Brett Bloom said at 10:36 am on February 11th, 2010:

    Thanks for letting us know about the project, Rebekah! It is great hearing about all the things folks have been working on.

  4. 4 brian said at 10:57 am on November 21st, 2010:

    I have original drawings and notes from J.S.G Boggs

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