Pick up an Emin for a song

This weekend's skill swapping and hard-nose bartering reveals the art that money can't buy, says Annie Deakin

"You give me your Tracey Emin painting and I'll sing you a song..." Swapping art for anything but cash is the hot topic of the creative world this week. For the next three days, high profile artists including Tracey Emin, Gavin Turk and Gary Hume will exchange their work for anything except money in a novel exhibition Art Barter.

Search for the perfect furniture with The Independent house and home database, powered by mydeco. 

Acquiring art without cash, through skill swapping or exchanging a comparative item, forces us to question the distorted notion of value that we put on art. A Hugo Wilson sketch for a Spanish lesson? A Gavin Turk sculpture for a holiday home? A Boo Saville painting for legal services? The  hopeful public will pin their offers to a bulletin board at the exhibition in the Rag Factory in London's East End.

Bartering for paintings has long been a way of currency for artists; Andy Warhol once traded a self-portrait for a video camera while Picasso famously exchanged sketches for meals. But what makes this weekend's Art Barter special is the caliber of contributing artists and the hidden agenda of the exhibition. For the opening lots, there is a catch: the art will be presented anonymously so bidders will not know whose art they are getting until their bid is accepted. The identity of the artists and winners will be revealed on Sunday.

"We live in a world where the actual piece of work itself and its message or beauty often falls second to the hype or price that is attached," says curator Lauren Jones. "This event will encourage people to value the work themselves, not for the name or price tag attached."

Art Barter is a rebellion against the unsavory trend of pursuing artworks for a recognizable signature or financial value, rather than for aesthetics.

Without money as a means for purchasing, what will the public offer in exchange for art this weekend? Contributing painter Ian Bruce expects the public to offer sexual favours and trips to holiday homes in exchange for art. "However what I'd really like in exchange is the chance to paint someone I really admire, like Stephen Fry – for me to have two or three days of his time to paint him."

It has been hinted that a Swiss taxidermy enthusiast and admirer of artist Polly Morgan's, may offer up his chalet in Switzerland in lieu of her work. Meanwhile, "there's an anonymous artist who has been given a grant to build the actual wing of an aeroplane through his council flat in Fulham, and is offering it as his work of art," says Jones. "He is hoping to get a big house in Chelsea in exchange for it."

Bartering, rather than buying art with cash, opens up the market to a more diverse crowd, not just those with disposable income.  Ultimately,  it gives artists greater exposure and  opportunities they otherwise could not afford. The traditional art market, which relys on financial exchange, is closed yet bartering gives a wider audience the confidence to take part. Bruce embellishes, "I met this guy called Jonathan Quearney (a fashionable tailor trained by royal clothier)] at a dinner party and asked him where he got his incredible suit. I soon realised that I couldn't afford to pay him for it, so I offered him a painting to decorate his shop. For me these are collaborative exchanges, in the way that I try and understand his art through my own painting, and vice-versa."

Does bartering for art belittle the work itself? Artists strive to be taken seriously and respected in the industry; one wonders if by swapping pictures for holidays lowers the art's value. Yet exchanging their work for items or services shouldn’t mean the art is worth any less. Let's not forget that bartering was once a way of life and that money as the universal form of exchange is a comparatively novel innovation. Trading without handing over hard cash injects fun and character into otherwise soulless monetary transactions.

Getting a Tracey Emin painting for a song may seem a little insane. Yet the notion of exchanging without cash is a very sane wake-up call to the often-warped value of art. This weekend's Art Barter is a great reminder that you can't put a price on everything.

Annie Deakin is Editor of furniture and interior design website mydeco.com.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions