Friday, August 17, 2007

One Thousand Paintings

Art & commerce have never been so mathematically married as Swiss artist Sala's project, One Thousand Paintings. With more than 750 of these simple and elegant number canvases sold (the majority, 350 or so, to Americans), for increasing prices tagged to availability, Sala's effort to distribute his genius and unroll the magic of numbers across the globe has worked brilliantly. It's the kind of art and marketing we at Lalande Digital Art Press appreciate: An energetic, living, limited edition work of art.

Marketing guru Seth Godin has tagged Sala's project an "Idea Virus," and Godin himself wrote: "It's so classically, perfectly viral. It will make him hundreds of thousands of dollars in just a few weeks. And it will make you smile. I bought painting 552. I may donate it to MoMA."

"One thousand numbers = one thousand paintings. All beautifully painted on canvas (approx. 12 x 12 x 1.5 inches). Each number is unique - the number and the demand define the price. An experiment of art & mathematics, on the web, the first of its kind," writes Sala on his site. It's a work of Fluxus-inspired brilliance that pushes the mail art concept into a new dimension. (The works are mailed in yellow boxes to collectors). And an art that values itself according to the market.

Sala's price calculator states: "Price = 1000 - number. Initial discount: 90%. Current discount: 20%.The discount will decrease by an absolute 10% for every 100 paintings sold. Min. price: $40." So if you bought number 500, you pay 1000 minus 500 for $500.

The project began more than a year ago in Zurich. Wired Magazine featured the artist in their piece, Paint By Numbers. Collectors are varied for their interest in art and their interest in numbers and numerology and Sala cites their stories on his blog, along with photos of their "installations." One collector, Tosh Cooey, purchased the initial 12 digits in Pi, beginning with 314 (3.14159265...). Cooey wrote Sala: "I wonder just what the longest possible sequence is using only your paintings. Because many prime numbers were bought early, it would seem that many of your buyers were numbers and maths buffs, perhaps one of them would know the answer to that question."

Still others have very specific and personal stories with numbers – a wedding anniversary or an address, the number of days in the year (365). Among other things Sala has created in his One Thousand Paintings project is a unique, global community – one with a lot of buzz.

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