Several possible lessons can perhaps be derived from this single incident:
As the opening lot of the Deutscher and Hackett auction, a single wad of $20,000 cash — an artwork called Currency — was sold for $17,500. When the 22 per cent buyer’s premium is added, the total cost comes to $21,350.
The artwork? Two stacks of 100 $100 Australian banknotes. The auctioneers had projected a sale price between $15,000 and $25,000.
Artist Denis Beaubois said he had had no idea what to expect from the auction:
“I thought there was a strong chance it would go for below [$20,000] because there’s a lot of suspicion with the work, but it’s also interesting it went for above the financial worth.”
From the purely-mercenary standpoint, the maximum bid would have been $16,393, which would have left the high bidder, after compensating the auctioneers, with a 54-cent profit.
Viewed strictly as an objet d’art, a stack of banknotes is not exactly unique, since it’s essentially indistinguishable from any other stack of banknotes: you could use notes of lower value, thereby making a taller stack, but any other difference, I suspect, is trivial, though Beaubois said that all the serial numbers are recorded to insure authenticity.
What matters most here, though, is this:
The work … [was] brought to life with a $20,000 grant from the Australia Council.
After all, it’s always better to spend Other People’s Money.
(Via Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution.)