'Not for Sale' (1975) Acrylic and oil on canvas, 122 x 122 cm1975
An issue that concerned left wing visual artists during the 1970s was the commodification process associated with the art market and private gallery system. Many artists and critics wanted to find an alternative and various strategies were tried. It occurred to me that painting itself should address this issue and so, in 1975, I devised a canvas featuring the words 'Buy Me! As an investment, Genuine Oil Painting'. Its garish colours (black, blue, red, white and yellow), and bold lettering style paid homage to crude advertising, commercial sign painting and the pop art of the 1960s. (Many pop paintings had included lettering.) Although this painting demanded to become a commodity, its title – in tiny lettering placed in one corner – told a different story: 'Not for Sale'. (The contradiction between the painting's message and its title was one consequence of reading semioticians on the varying relations that could exist between images and captions.) In addition, written on the back of the canvas was the instruction that it should never be bought and sold but only given away. Gifts of objects that have been made by hand surely escape commodification. For this reason the artist gave the painting to Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
- All rights reserved. Exhibited on USEUM with the permission of the rights owner.