Rubbish Conversation with Lars Tharp at the Hepworth, Wakefield, 19/01/14
LT: I don’t know what else I can say about this that you don’t already know.
AB: I’d like to hear what you think of it’s value.
LT: You don’t really want to know that?
AB: I do. By the process you’d normally use to value objects..?
LT: Oh that’s easy. The process by which we do all the valuations works on the basis that most of the objects brought in are comparable to similar items. In the case of ceramics for example; ceramics are mass produced essentially identical objects will appear over time with little variants.
AB: So, stuff like this [rubbish] is the extreme of that mass-production?
LT: It’s interesting; if you’d been in something like the Turner Prize and this had been made by someone who had a name already as a conceptual artist it would have a value which you could probably gauge. The artist would have an agent which would already be tapping into New York probably.. but what it’s worth is what anyone is prepared to pay for it. It’s a really good question. I would say it’s worth, monetarily, in this present market, erm, it’s probably worth somewhere between nothing and nothing plus X.
LT: That’s all I can say! But when you come back in five years time having won the Turner Prize with one of these it’ll have a value. It’s a question of finding people who are prepared to pay for it.
AB: So I need someone to externally validate it?
LT: The answer to your question is Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Tom Sawyer was painting a fence as punishment and all his chums come up the hillside and they say, “Ha ha ha! You were made to paint the fence!” And Tom says, “You haven’t been asked to paint the fence have you?” Tom’s making them feel jealous about this painting the fence and in the end they’re desperate to paint the fence, which is a punishment basically, and Tom says “What are you going to give me if I let you paint the fence?” And so they end up taking coins out of their pockets and bits of orange peel and all the sorts of things that school boys have in their pockets in Mississippi in 1880. Gradually he’s building up this treasure trove of rubbish and they’re all objects that they’ve given up because they want to paint the fence. He’s turned the fence painting from a punishment into something desirable and it’s transacted with the stuff they have in their pockets. That’s the only answer I can give! It’s worth a painted fence!
AB: Great! Thank you very much.