SIMILAC / NYC 1987 / acrylic on canvas / 260 x 120 cm

MOTION I / NYC 1987 / acrylic on canvas / 304 x 76 cm

MOTION II / NYC 1987 / acrylic on canvas / 304 x 76 cm

SATISFACTION GUARANTEED / NYC 1988 / acrylic on canvas / ? x ??cm


Finally, the art world has publicly tumbled or was it pushed?-to what it knew all along: art is, on certain levels, a commodity like any other.

But while dealers mourn the death of the 'priceless" mystique that flexed the cash exchange beyond-some would say-reason and the entire concept of value, artists struggle to catch up with the art-entrepreneurs and investors by supporting legislation that would cut themselve and their heirs and assigns on the resale of their work. And the Department of Consumer Affair if not the real tastemakers, then at least the taste-testers of our populist age-demands a visible price on what is essentially a useless and God help us "spiritual" enterpnse (as Hilton Kramer would be the first to tell you, between courses at Mr. Chow's).

When will the savvy fat cats wise up? When will Hanna-Barbera sue Kenny Scharf and bring the aesthetic of appropriation into open court? How many photographs will David Salle then have to acknowledge in typescript at the bottom of the canvas: "used by permission of..."? And just wait until the estate of Yves Klein gets ahold of General Idea and all those bther "Blues Brothers !"

Leave it, of course, to the Swiss-at least one Swiss to consider the implications of art-as-priced object. And leave it to this Swiss to focus on "state of the art" pricing... not your basic tag with its funny $'s and decimals, symbols for scrip, but the price-tag of the universal future: The Universal Product Code, which relieves cashiers of the tedium of memory, stock clerks of the effort of stamping, and art lovers the responsibility of haggling over their status (in an inverse ratio, of course: the more money you pay, the more favored the customer you are 'lt costs $50,000, but for you ... $100,000!"" Did you hear that, Barbara? We've arrived!!").

Flaminio Gaggionis's UPC exists as the prime focus of the paintings he makes; no object is considered without its market value. By so doing, he has transcended whatever trite message about art (or corn, or York Peppermint Patties, or whatever) and money may leap immediately to the viewer's mind, for, in addition to being scrupulously accurate even to the thickness of their lines and spaces, these UPC's constitute a weird aesthetic unto themselves,

Not only then, prices, but symbols too; painterly elements, mysterious. The stripes of black and white, numerals at the bottom standing for...just what, exactly only the laser knows!...

Thus are the boundaries (which everyone knows don't exist anymore) of art, design and sales edged slightly further towards the final merger. As Gaggionis's work becomes more abstract, so does the Code become integrated as a fully-realized component of the abstraction. As in the world of grocery-store commerce, the Code recedes into the design, be it label or canvas. Earlier work mirrors an earlier concept of packaging in which both product and price was immediately accessible and, as on dry goods shelves, the price overwhelms the product, stamped with heavy black hand on nature's bounty.

The high tech world of the supermarket, the shopping channel, the packaging itself-not generic, but abstract, undefinable (if the pack didn't say "Marlboro's" would you know it contained cigarettes?) returns full circle for the artist. And the concept of money (itself, according to Goethe, a dangerous abstraction of the earth's "real wealth") becomes as ephemeral and unknowable as the laser scanner that tells you how much to pay.

Art. Commerce. Money. All revenue generating. All revenue itself. Buy the painting; hang the expense.

Michael Karp, New York, May 18, 1988

MOTION III / NYC 1988 / acrylic on canvas / 378 x 42 cm