When the 67-year-old Italian artist Salvatore Garau sold his artwork Io Sono — which translates as “I am” — for €15,000 (or £12,900) back in May, the sale was met with a fair amount of controversy. Understandable, since the “intangible sculpture” consisted of literally nothing.
“The vacuum is nothing more than a space full of energy, and even if we empty it and there is nothing left, according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, that nothing has a weight,” Garau told Diario AS at the time. “Therefore, it has energy that is condensed and transformed into particles, that is, into us.”
Several commentators expressed cynicism toward Garau’s artwork in the wake of the sale, claiming that anyone could hawk nothing by calling it an invisible artwork. One man, however, has a different criticism: he claims that he actually did create an artwork based on nothing, and wants recognition for doing it first.
The Florida-based performance artist, named Tom Miller, says that he installed his own invisible sculpture in Bo Diddley Community Plaza, in the state’s city of Gainesville, back in 2016. Aptly-titled Nothing, the “piece” was assembled over five days, with builders-slash-mimes installing blocks of air, and capturing the process in a short mockumentary.
“All I can say personally is that Nothing is very important to me,” Miller tells Artnet News. “I should be credited with Nothing (specifically the idea of Nothing fashioned into sculpture form), and Gainesville, Florida—not Italy—is where Nothing happened first.”
If he can’t work out an amicable solution, the artist adds, he plans to file a lawsuit against Garau. Speaking to the local news site on Monday WCJB-TV (June 28), he said: “When I saw (Garau’s work), I thought, ‘Well that’s exactly my idea. I simply wanted that attribution. I contacted him, he dismissed it away, and then I hired an Italian attorney.”
Honestly? This is giving $120,000 banana vibes all over again. It’s also worth noting that invisibility in art actually dates back much earlier than 2016. Take a look at some of history’s most iconic “invisible” artworks, from the likes of Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, and Kerry James Marshall, here.