Signed, sealed, delivered

John Windsor on a tattooed artist at the cutting edge
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Indy Lifestyle Online
The Pompidou Centre in Paris has sent in the first bidding slip for the tattooed signature "F Arias" on the artist's groin. It has not named a sum, but if negotiations are successful, the price will include the cost of its surgical removal and a skin graft.

Fernando Arias, a 33 year old Colombian installation artist who graduated in art and design at the old City of London Polytechnic, touted his artwork - himself, that is - at the Arco 97 art fair in Madrid last month. The 1,000 bidding slips were snapped up on the first day.

"What Am I Bid" (its title), is - in case you hadn't guessed - a comment on the art market, notably its obsession with signatures as proof of authenticity. Arias never signs his works and once had a barny with a Canadian collector who made him scratch his name with a nail on a metal and glass sculpture of his.

A full-colour sales brochure for the tattoo contains a bidding slip and bears a pastiche of the London auctioneer Christie's logo with Arias' portrait and the legend "Crisi's".

As it happens, Arias is not even his real surname. Gaviria is: but that causes him no end of bother with South American border guards because it is a name linked with a Colombian drug cartel and is the name of a former Colombian president.

Arias's usual medium is not skin but blood. And occasionally cocaine. Refused funds by the Gallery of Modern Art in Bogota, he used stencils to write a quote from the rejection letter in 50 grams of cocaine sprinkled onto the flat surface of three litres of his own dried blood, then encased it in a clear plastic box as an artwork. His miniature installation that will appear in a group show at the Architectural Association, Bedford Square, London WC1 from 3 March for three weeks is expected to be less challenging.

Following Arco, three public galleries, in Mexico City, Colombia and Madrid, have invited him to create new artworks - if there is enough of him left.

Bids for "What Am I Bid" should be sent to: Independent Public Arts Ltd, 11 Randolph Place, Edinburgh EH3 7TA.

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