Artist Michael Green is attempting to sell the world’s most expensive animated GIF on eBay as we speak, with one watcher and zero bids. This is the second time he’s tried. The first sale failed late last night.
Green’s GIF is a reference to Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog sculptures, one of which (the orange one) became the most expensive work of art sold by a living artist in 2013. Green’s Balloon Dog Deflated depicts a recreation of that enormous sculpture, crunched down to a bitmap and deflating endlessly on loop. It’s a nice GIF. It’s well rendered, links itself to recent art history, attempts to make a statement about the future of art, and it’s a little bit funny. Unfortunately, Green doesn’t seem to be a very good salesman — and he’s made a target out of possibly the greatest salesman the art world has ever known.
When John Waters interviewed Koons back in February with art critic Mat Gleason, Koons’ superior salesmanship comes up right away. “The first impression Koons gives is that of a relaxed, earnest salesman, pitching his listener on a product with assurances and pleasant certainty,” Gleason had noted. Actually, pretty much anything you read about Koons will mention how great of a salesman he is, and how he’s constantly reassuring.
Here’s an example of Koons sunny, happy, nearly-nonsense way of pitching his art:
I always like to believe that my work is about the expansion of the possibilities of the viewer. So if you have a sense of a heightened situation where there’s an excitement, a physical excitement and an intellectual stimulation, there’s just this sense of expansion. Because that’s where the art happens. Inside the viewer.
See how Koons makes it all about you? See how he implies that you will expand as a human being by viewing his work? That’s catnip for collectors who want to believe in something bigger than themselves, and simultaneously just how big they themselves are.
Green is going for the opposite approach. He wants you to pity people who make art on the internet, rather than feel that they are giving you a path to enlightenment:
Today’s best artists are on the internet and they do it for free. Jeff Koons is dead. If he was alive today, and made a ‘balloon dog deflated,’ he would be as poor as Michael Green and there would be only 1,400 notes on Tumblr.
For the record, Jeff Koons is not dead. He’s bigger than ever, but you get it — “his ideas are dead, feast you’re eyes on the future” is basically what Green means. Selling is about seduction, and you don’t seduce anyone by getting them to pity you. You make them want to come into your world.
The whole page is pretty much impossible to get through. It goes on and on with manifesto statements, a long explanation of what a GIF is, and appeals to the potential collector to see this simultaneously as an act of charity and an important landmark in the sale of digital work.
Green’s project is well-intentioned, and digital art needs collectors. Let’s hope he makes his sale this time around, and if he doesn’t, maybe he could hit up that person that sold a 4chan screenshot for $90k — they might have some good advice. Considering that Koons sued a gallery in 2011 for selling balloon dog-ish bookends, selling this might just be the beginning of his problems. (Image: eBay)