Italian conceptual artist Salvatore Garau has proven that you can put a price on anything, even nothing. The artist's latest piece is an "immaterial sculpture," meaning it does not really exist. Despite not being anything more than air, the piece titled Io Sono (or "I am"), sold for €15,000, or about $18,300 at an auction last month.
While many might think this is preposterous, Garau, 67, is very serious about the piece. "The vacuum is nothing more than a space full of energy, and even if we empty it and there is nothing left, according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, that nothing has a weight," the artist told the Spanish news site Dario AS, reports ArtNet. "Therefore, it has energy that is condensed and transformed into particles, that is, into us."
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Io Sono was auctioned off by the Italian auction house Art-Rite, which specializes in contemporary art, reports Italy 24 News. They valued Garau's piece at €6,000-9,000, but an intense bidding war broke out to push the cost even higher. The winning bidder didn't exactly walk away with "nothing" though. They received a certificate of authenticity and a list of instructions on how to display the piece. It has to be exhibited in a private house in a five-by-five-foot space with no obstruction.
"When I decide to 'exhibit' an immaterial sculpture in a given space, that space will concentrate a certain amount and density of thoughts at a precise point, creating a sculpture that, from my title, will only take the most varied forms," the artist explained. "After all, don't we shape a God we've never seen?"
Garau is known for bringing new meaning to the word "art" with his immaterial sculptures. In February, he exhibited Buddha in Contemplation at the Piazza Della Scala in Milan. This was also an invisible sculpture, only marked by a square of tape on the walkway. He also took his work to New York City, where he recently installed Afrodite Cries in front of the New York Stock Exchange. The piece was only marked by an empty white circle, and it was supported by the Italian Cultural Institute. "You don't see it but it exists; it is made of air and spirit," he explained in a video about his Milan piece. "It is a work that asks you to activate the power of the imagination, a power that anyone has, even those who don't believe they have it."
Not too many people are impressed by his work. On YouTube, one person called him a "snake-oil salesman at work" in response to his New York piece. "You are either a next-level troll or you should consider seeing someone for your hallucinations. Just a thought," another wrote. "There was more work put into the video to convince us there's something there! Lol," another added.