'The Most Expensive GIF of All Time' Is Being Sold for $5,800

An artist considers the value of art that is not an object—making a point, if not a sale. 

What is digital art? What is it worth? 

Like any art—and like anything else, really—it's worth what the highest bidder says it is. Jeff Koons knows this; in 2013, his Balloon Dog (Orange) sold at Christie's for $58.4 million, making it the most expensive work of art (by a living artist, at any rate) ever to sell at auction.

But here's where things get meta. Or, you know, extra-meta. Another artist, Michael Green, recently created a digital image of Koons' iconic Balloon Dog. Specifically, he created several digital images of Koons' iconic Balloon Dog, and then blended them together into a single GIF. Green then slapped a schmancily bare title ("Balloon Dog Deflated") onto his self-recycling image. He then uploaded the image's file to eBay. He then offered it for sale.

For $2,000.

He had no takers. So he did the obvious thing, when you're an artist and an eBay member and being meta about both: He increased the price of the thing he was selling. Substantially. To—in honor of Koons' sale—$5,800. 

Green also included, as any good self-curator will, a description of the work in question. "Balloon Dog Deflated," he explains in his eBay ad,
 
is a GIF animation by the net artist Michael Green, an excerpt from his tumblr GIF series "luxury.obj" (www.luxuryobj.tumblr.com) which explores the desire of class "objects" through the replication and representation of the original object, with specific attention detailed on the essence of the object itself, through the use of various digital lighting and texture techniques. "Balloon Dog Deflated" is an ironic re-working of the 12 foot stainless steel sculpture "Balloon Dog" (1994) by Jeff Koons, which sold in an auction for $58 million dollars, which according to The New York Times, claims that the sculpture is "the most expensive work sold by an artist in an auction." Jeff Koons would have a staff of the most skilled "employed" craftsmen to compose his work. 
 
He continues: 
 
The deflation itself is a statement  where it is once again time to destroy the values of the tradition of modern art and for our culture to evolve to the logical next step, the digital medium. The GIF itself is a popular format that mainstream culture has embraced throughout webpages all over the internet, and is seen daily by millions of people worldwide. The museum of 2o14 is the internet. The museum is in Tumblr, the most relevant "space" for the culture to see any work of art and/or image related/unrelated; the spectator and the relationship of the image. Physical museums, like compact discs and books are dead. It's in the cloud now, and it is time to embrace this fact and make the essence of an art object relevant to everyday society. As modern art has exhausted it's own frame with postmodern maximalist expression of all that was left, a new generation of artists have found inspiration from new tools that represents their time on earth. The most innovation is taking place in this medium, and these brilliant innovators will never have a name like Jeff Koons did 20 years ago, because culture itself has divorced itself from relating to the concept and value of a painting. It's over. The deflation of "Balloon Dog Deflation" represents this death, letting go of all the optimism Koons blew into it 20 years ago. It's over and it begins again....

Despite all this, there are still no takers. Which means that, if you have $5,800 to spare, and want to make a statement about the value of art in the digital age, you can have an extremely expensive GIF file delivered to you. In, eBay estimates, five business days. 

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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