Friday, April 25, 2008

Boggs by Lawrence Weschler

My colleague Steven Lydenberg, author of Corporations and the Public Interest, recommended this entertaining and thought-provoking book about an artist who draws money. In some ways, Boggs reminds me of the work of Donald Evans, who created beautiful imaginary stamps from imaginary countries. Boggs is not a counterfeiter — he’s just fascinated by the artistry of currency and by the value we ascribe to it, now that the U.S. dollar, for instance, is no longer backed by gold or silver and has value mainly because we agree it does. Boggs draws Swiss francs and British pounds with very fine-tipped pens, but that’s only the beginning. The artwork is not complete, in his view, until he is able to use it to purchase something. That is, rather than sell his work he uses its face value to buy something, which is only possible when the seller agrees that its value as an artwork is at least as much as the note that it imitates. Finding someone who agrees to the transaction is often the hardest part. Another hard part was Bogg’s prosecution by the Bank of England, and his persecution by the U.S. Secret Service.

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