At an Australian Auction, $20,000 Sells for $21,350

Denis Beaubois's "Currency" (2011) (Photo: Deutscher and Hackett)

How much would you pay for $20,000 Australian dollars? (That’s about $21,000 in U.S. dollars.)

Last night, at an auction at the Deutscher and Hackett house in Melbourne, Australia, a bidder decided he or she was willing to spend $21,350 Australian dollars (or about US$22,900) for just that sum, a $1,350 Australian (or roughly US$1,900) surplus over the actual value of the money.

The lot was, in fact, a work of art, composed of nothing but money–two bundles of crisp new $100 Australian banknotes–that was made by Australian Conceptual artist Denis Beaubois. The work’s title: Currency (2011).

“I thought there was a strong chance it would go for below [$20,000],” Mr. Beaubois told The Australian, “because there’s a lot of suspicion with the work, but it’s also interesting it went for above the financial worth.” The house had estimated its value at $15,000 to $25,000.

Also interesting is the fact that the work actually hammered for less than its full $20,000 sum, at just $17,500: the $21,350 figure includes the addition of a 22-percent buyer’s premium, which is typically paid to the auction house. In other words, Mr. Beaubois actually lost money.

Currency- and money-related artworks–which have a grand tradition, to artists like Marcel Duchamp, Cildo Meireles, Ed Kienholz, The K Foundation and others have contributed–are having something of a moment. Earlier this year, the German artist Hans-Peter Feldmann also made a work out of nothing but money (and, admittedly, metal pins), hanging 100,000 one-dollar bills, his total financial reward for winning the 2010 Hugo Boss Prize, on the walls of the Guggenheim in New York.

However, unlike Mr. Beaubois, Mr. Feldmann plans to keep his money after the exhibition closes on Nov. 2. At an Australian Auction, $20,000 Sells for $21,350