“One young artist determined to control his market is Wade Guyton, the American painter who produces canvases on inkjet printers. Last month, protesting an enormous price asked for one of his paintings at auction, he made copies of the 2005 image from the original disk and posted them on Instagram. (Prices for his paintings were stronger than ever anyway, with one bringing nearly $6 million.) Undeterred, for Art Basel he gave each of the five dealers he works with — Frederich Petzel from New York, Gió Marconi in Milan, Galerie Gisela Capitain from Cologne, Galerie Francesca Pia from Zurich and Galerie Chantal Crousel in Paris — a black painting, all the same size and all made from the same disk. They each had a $350,000 price tag, and all of them sold either on Tuesday or before…”
“…In an email, Mr. Guyton explained that he instructed the dealers to hang his paintings at identical heights, “so each time you walk up to one, you would have a similar physical encounter.” He added: “On the one hand, it is a way to satisfy all my galleries simultaneously and fairly. It’s also a way of talking about the repetitive experience of seeing similar artworks throughout a fair and embracing that aggressively by showing almost identical works.” Carol Vogel on Wade Guyton, June 19, 2014.
“Guyton has openly questioned the strategies of valuation of the art market, in a recent online spat with Loic Gouzer the curator of Christie’s “If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday” auction. The issue started with the valuation of Guyton’s “Untitled (Fire, Red/Black U)” piece, which was estimated to sell for $3.5 million dollars. Unhappy with what he considered inflated prices of his paintings, Guyton posted online a picture of reproductions of Untitled (Fire, Red/Black U) printed on the same Epson printer and using the same file. His intention was to show the collectors that the “original” auctioned by Christie’s would be of no value in the face of his ability to create virtually unlimited originals. The throwaway Instagram account was aptly named burningbridges38. The stunt proved pointless, [why?] the painting sold for $3.525 million dollars. Furthermore, Guyton’s prices have remained stable, many of his auction results hover [at] the one to three million mark. Jesse Siegel on Wade Guyton, May 27, 2017.
In our digital world – What is an original? What is unique? How are these things defined? How is something valued both by an artist and the wider collecting world? If Guyton’s mass production to deflate the “value” of his painting doesn’t change the market for or the value of his “original” image – then how is value (both aesthetically and monetarily) determined? Why would an artist be involved in such issues in the first place? Does it matter how many images of a thing there are? Shouldn’t things just look good? Or are there always other issues at play?
“Yesterday afternoon at Christie’s, however, I saw collectors, sellers, and auction-house swains and dames actually sweating, worrying about something that might have been undermining their cash machine’s operation. On Instagram! Wade Guyton’s smallish but beautiful black, blue, and red Untitled is estimated to sell for between $2.5 and $3.5 million tonight, and rumor has it that there’s a guarantee of $4 million. Guyton makes his art on inkjet printers and photocopiers, and last week, he began printing scores of new paintings from the same 2005 file that produced this one, perhaps an attempt to erase the singularity of this painting and torpedo its price. He took pictures of this process and posted them on Instagram. You can go to his account (@burningbridges38) and see copies of the painting rolling out of his printer and spread out all over his studio floor. These images have gone viral. Suddenly the piece at Christie’s is identical to dozens of others. The uniqueness has gone away.” Jerry Saltz on Wade Guyton May 12, 2014.