On Monday, artist Nikolas Bentel will auction off a Robert Rauschenberg print for, he hopes, $20,000.
Except it won’t a Robert Rauschenberg print anymore. It will be covered in advertisements for people and firms—including a graphic depiction of a six-inch penis—that Bentel has attracted to his mission to destroy a Rauschenberg and create a new work of art.
The print cost Bentel $10,000, the exact amount raised by the advertising he has bought. Each square inch of the piece was sold for $92.59.
This aesthetic defilement isn’t an anti-Rauschenberg statement, but a critique, Bentel told The Daily Beast, of the high-priced lunacy of the art market where, as he put it, “the top one percent of artists and auction companies like Sotheby’s can command millions of dollars for works of art.”
Rauschenberg may well have welcomed Bentel’s act of destruction. In 1953, the pop artist destroyed a drawing by Willem de Kooning. The dealer who sold Bentel the print, Hojae Kim, “absolutely got” the point Bentel was trying to make, the artist said. The print being obliterated is a 1959 sketch of one of Rauschenberg’s sculpture, “Monogram.”