Why are we calling Value Manifesto a crypto multiple?
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
I recently had to remember one evening last year when I was with some friends having a relaxed evening with drinks at my home. Minimalistic art works are hanging on our walls, based on colour and form, different positions from different artists. Most vistors have no doubts: art…or something like this. But one of my recent art acquisitions created some special attention: on my workdesk was a hammer, fixed on a wooden board. My tipsy friend (in one hand a bottle of Pils, in the other the hammer) asked where my toolbox was. I answered: „be careful, the hammer is art“. Followed by laughter. „The wooden box and the soap box next to it, too…“. Everyone looked at me like I was kidding. It didn't get any better when I told them that I had paid a moderate three-digit amount for these works by Joseph Beuys and Günther Uecker in an auction house. In order not to let the group completely doubt my sanity, I showed the works on the collection page of the Museum of Modern Art NY. Shrugs…“do you have more beer in the fridge?“. I shared the story of the multiple and its role in contemporary art this evening, maybe not 100% correctly due to too many Pilsener.
Yesterday, my Uecker hammer reminded my about this evening and I decided to write a bit about the meaning and the story of this simple term which is so important for our project: As the name suggests, “multiples” are works of art, of which several copies are made. They are therefore not copies of an original, but nothing but originals themselves.
The Swiss artist Daniel Spoerri defined the guidelines for the multiple in the foundation of his edition MAT ("Multiplication d'Art Transformable“, founded 1959) in the following way:
A multiple should…
not be produced by any historical duplication techniques (etching, photography, etc.)
the works should get along without personal handwriting and
So, an industrially produced tool, an everyday object might be art? Is it simple like this? Somehow yes - and history delivers some explanation why so many 20th century artists were so fascinated about exatly this circumstance.
Different techniques have made it possible to create multiple examples of artworks for many centuries: sculpture in bronze, various techniques of printmaking including etchings, lithography etc. The number produced is often limited, sometimes for commercial reasons but, in the case of prints, also for technical reasons – printing plates wear rapidly, so later impressions were inferior. In the theoretical justification of a multiple, the terms "originality" and "seriality" play an important role. Because in the logic of original, copy, reproduction and forgery, which were primarily defined in the field of the fine arts, a hierarchy of values had developed in the course of art history: at the top the handwritten, authentic or (according to the words of the philosopher Walter Benjamin) „auratic“ work of art from whose uniqueness the gradient of subordinate imitations took its course.
However, hierarchies did not fit the way of thinking of the avant-garde artists of the 20th century: In the 1910s Artist Marcel Duchamp elevated industrially produced everyday objects to works of art by the act of signing them. His urinal with the artistic pseudonym signature „R. Mutt“ from 1917 became a key piece in the development of 20th century art and was a provocative critique on censorship in art academies and exhibitions.
Romanian-Swiss artist Daniel Spoerri introduced the term „multiple“ to the art world in 1959, when he founded Edition MAT (Multiplication d’Art Transformable) in Paris. It was Spoerri’s goal to produce objects by different artists in series as cheaply as possible. His initiative developed at the same time as the democratic aspirations of the 1960s, during which the art world increasingly opened up - and with it the market for multiples:
Since these days numerous multiples were sold through the commitment of young gallery owners who specialized in such editions, through art fairs and exhibitions, but also through new presentation locations like department stores.
Some artists took advantage of industrial materials to fabricate objects that replicate the look of contemporary housewares, while others used readymade products to address the culture of consumption. Artists who questioned the status of art as a luxury commodity embraced multiples as a more democratic art form. Joseph Beuys, for example, described his multiples as the “vehicles” through which his ideas could circulate among a broader public, beyond elite art networks.
We share the spirit of the pioneers of the multiple in aspects of our technical concept and democratic approach.
The Value Manifesto declares its own value to be art. In that sense, our 250 Value Manifesto editions are multiples of its own value.
The physical form of the display consists of "ready-mades", which is a term that has been applied to artworks made from manufactured objects. For the artistic medium we chose a mass-market numerical display medium for scientific instruments: nixie tubes. Those tubes were used in the 1960s and 1970s for displaying digits in measuring devices and computers. The technically archaic-looking Nixie tubes are manufactured today by our co-founder Dalibor Farny. Their retro design contrasts with the state-of-the-art online communication they perform in their function of displaying Value Manifesto's intrinsic value as a multiple.
Our vision of a decentralized and transparent art market is an important aspect of this project. As our editions are traded digitally in the form of ERC 721 tokens, containing a license to hold a physical display, we define our art work as a crypto multiple. Every transaction is publicly recorded; no more middlemen, access hurdles, agreements and information barriers exist.
Would Daniel Spoerri like this idea? We should ask him… he lives and works in Austria.