“Non-Visible” Art Carries a Stiff Price Tag

Hey, Pssst!  Want a Great Deal on an Invisible Pony?

I recently read a story about newly styled art aficionado Aimee Davison, who paid the notable sum  of $10,000 for a “non-visible” piece of art.  Asked why she spent so much money on something she couldn’t see, Aimee explained that she identified with the ideology of the project.  In particular, she was inspired by one sentence:

 “We exchange ideas and dreams as currency in the New Economy.”

 The work, aptly titled “Fresh Air,” is the creation of versatile actor-producer-director-painter-performance artist James Franco, whose screen credits have included a leading role in the short-lived television cult hit Freaks and Geeks and a Golden Globe-winning performance as James Dean in a TV production.

Until this newest venture into Art and Invisibility, Franco’s most notable achievement was his Oscar-winning portrayal of Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man trilogy.

It was through his latest creative enterprise, the Museum of Non-Visible Art, that Franco negotiated the sale of his pièce de résistance.  In the “MONA,” as he calls it, WORKS OF ART DON’T ACTUALLY EXIST EXCEPT IN THE MIND OF THE ARTIST.  According to the Museum’s self-description, it is:

…An extravaganza of imagination, a museum that reminds us that we live in two worlds: the physical world of sight and the non-visible world of thought. Composed entirely of ideas, the Non-Visible Museum redefines the concept of what is real. Although the artworks themselves are not visible, the descriptions open our eyes to a parallel world built of images and words. This world is not visible, but it is real, perhaps more real than the world of matter, and it is also for sale.

So when you purchase a “work of art” from the Museum  of Non-Visible Art, what you actually receive is a “card” which you can hang on a blank wall.  Then, you can “describe the art” to your admiring friends and associates.

Paste Magazine offered a breathy description of  “Fresh Air”:

A unique piece, only this one is for sale. The air you are purchasing is like buying an endless tank of oxygen. No matter where you are, you always have the ability to take a breath of the most delicious, clean-smelling air that the earth can produce. Every breath you take gives you endless peace and health. This artwork is something to carry with you if you own it. Because wherever you are, you can imagine yourself getting the most beautiful taste of air that is from the mountain tops or fields or from the ocean side; it is an endless supply.

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Aimee Davison, the buyer of Franco’s “Fresh Air”, is a self-described “new media producer.”

Indeed, this is not her first foray into the world of bizarre and useless business ventures.  In 2011, Davison “sold her soul” on Craigslist for $100. 

Smart, sassy, Davison interviewed the good sport who played Dr. Faustus in this ersatz morality play, shelling out the cash to “buy her soul.”  In a man-on-the-street style interview with her soul’s purchaser, she raised some interesting metaphysical questions:

  • What is a soul? 
  • Can you buy a soul?
  • Or do we all sell our souls on social media?

Deep questions, coming from a girl who just wants to have fun!

 Some days you’ve just gotta laugh.  And laugh some more.

If Ever Detroit Needed to Call Upon God

Times are tough in the city of Detroit.  An emergency manager has been appointed, to help stave off bankruptcy.  The City Council has lost several of its members, including Council President Charles Pugh, who has been AWOL on the West Coast following accusations of an inappropriate relationship with a high school student he mentored; and Gary Brown, President Pro Tem, who left the Council to take a position with the emergency manager.  Councilman Kwame Kenyatta also resigned recently.

Add to that rising crime and falling revenues, urban flight, unsustainable cash flow shortages and miserably low credit ratings, a crumbling infrastructure, and what Emergency Manager Kevin Orr termed “extremely low” efficiency, effectiveness and morale”  and outdated equipment and technology in the Detroit Police Department,  and frequent closures of Fire Department facilities due to staffing and equipment constraints, some 60,000 vacant parcels of land and 78,000 vacant buildings, and it’s hard to imagine how the city will generate the enthusiasm and vigor needed for a turn around.

With my hometown facing such an unfathomable mess, I thought I’d bring up a post from the past:  Finding God in the city. 

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Separation of church and state?  Once upon a time, our national and local governments were not afraid to allow religious expression in public buildings, parks, and offices.  Two such public images are Marshall Fredericks’ The Spirit of Detroit, symbol of hope for the city, and Swedish-born sculptor Carl Milles’ Hand of God, a memorial tribute to Frank Murphy.


Affectionately dubbed the “Jolly Green Giant,” The Spirit of Detroit sits cross-legged on Woodward Avenue, the long concrete zipper that divides Detroit into east and west.  A hunky bronze superhero, The Spirit of Detroit guards the milky marble edifice once called the City-County Building, but now renamed in honor of Detroit’s former mayor, Coleman A. Young.

Created by artist Marshall Fredericks and installed in 1958, The Spirit of Detroit was inspired after 2 Corinthians 3:17:

“Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 

“I tried to express the spirit of man,” explained Fredericks, “through the deity and the family.”

The Spirit of Detroit stands 26’ tall—or rather, sits 26 feet tall.  Were he to stretch his burly legs and stroll across Woodward Avenue to court the lithe bronze dancer in front of the Gas Company building, he’d probably reach a full 35 feet in height.  The large seated figure holds in its left hand a gilt sphere emanating rays, intended by Fredericks to symbolize God and creation.  In its right hand is a family group, symbolizing all human relationships.

On the curved wall behind the statue are the seals of the city and the county. A plaque in front of the sculpture is inscribed,

“The artist expresses the concept that God, through the spirit of man is manifested in the family, the noblest human relationship.”


Another expression of faith displayed unapologetically in the public square is Carl Milles’ Hand of God–a tribute to Detroit’s iconic public figure, William Francis (Frank) Murphy.

Frank Murphy held more public posts than any other Michigan native.  At the time of his death in 1949, he had served as governor, judge, U.S. Supreme Court associate justice, U.S. Attorney General, Detroit mayor, and Philippines high commissioner.

He was a friend to organized labor, supporting the United Auto Workers during the tumultous years when unions were just forming.  The $65,000 statue was largely funded by contributions from labor unions and workers.

The sculpture depicts a giant left hand, fingers outstretched.  A nude male figure stands atop the thumb and forefinger—his hands extended in surprise.  At the time the statue was presented to the city, some critics were offended by the nudity; so the statue was not immediately displayed.  Eleven years after its completion, with the support of Marshall Fredericks, Milles’ creation was mounted on a black marble block and finally exhibited in front of Detroit’s Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.

It’s reported that sculptor Milles gave several different explanations for the piece.  One popular story is that when asked about its meaning, Milles replied:

God the Father told the young man:  Look around the world and then make something good out of your life.