Let’s Trade: 6 Artworks Exchanged for Goods or Services

In honor of Mark Grotjahn skiing for free in Aspen all winter long

  • Earlier this week, it was reported that Los Angeles artist Mark Grotjahn will be able to ski for free in Aspen all season long in exchange for designing special chairlift tickets, as part of an ongoing series hosted by the Aspen Art Museum.

    Such bartered arrangements have a rich history. There are stories of Picasso and Matisse trading artworks to cover bar and cafe tabs in New York, Dalí paying for dinners with a quick sketch and a signature.

    In the slide show above, we take a look at six of our favorite trades, including stories with Kienholz, Kippenberger, Duchamp, Hirst, Warhol and Emin, making deals for everything from a fur coat to dental work.

    No doubt we have left out many of your personal favorites. Please do share them in the comments section below.

  • Back in 1990, early in his career, Damien Hirst needed some work done on his teeth and went to go see a dentist named Adrian Mullish. "When I went to see Adrian I had to have some dental treatment which was really expensive," Mr. Hirst recalled in an interview. "So he just said, 'Look, I know you haven't got any money and you're an artist. If you give me some art...'" Mr. Mullish got a number of prime early works and even landed on Art Review's annual Power 100 list in 2003. Here, a number of medicine cabinets are shown at L&M Arts, New York.

  • The London-based outfit Art Barter has been encouraging artists to swap works for goods and services at various events. In 2010, Ms. Emin traded this monoprint for 30 hours of French lessons. "It cuts out the middle man," she told a magazine.

  • The storied Union Square-area bar, restaurant and music venue Max's Kansas City was filled with works that artists gave in exchange for credit at the bar. Warhol, a regular at the place (the Factory was only a few blocks away), made trades a handful of times, including once exchanging a work that records describe as "Marilyn Monroe," for a $200 credit on a $774.73 bar tab.

  • For a 1969 show at Eugenia Butler Gallery in Los Angeles, Kienholz brushed a few washes of watercolor over pieces of paper and wrote out on each one what he wanted to trade for the given work. Four examples: a Timex Electric Watch, a fur foat, $313, 10 screwdrivers. Not only is the artwork bartered in this case, its subject is barter itself. (A tip of the hat to Observer colleague Sarah Douglas for highlighting this work.)

  • In the mid 1970s, Kippenberger moved to Florence to become an actor. That plan--like so many that the artist embarked on--didn't quite pan out, but he used his time there to paint a massive suite of 55 black and white paintings from photos. Stacked on top of one another, they almost equaled his height. He later gave them to Michel Würthle, the owner of one of his favorite haunts, the Paris Bar, in exchange for a lifetime of dining at the French bistro for himself and his friend.

  • The wily Dadaist drew this meticulous replica of a check, written out for $115, drawn from The Teeth's Loan &Trust Company, and gave it to his dentist, Daniel Tzanck (hence the name), in lieu of paying cash. He later bought the work back from Tzanck for a larger sum.

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