POST BY PADDY JOHNSON
[Bid on this Significant Object, with story by Joanne McNeil, here.]
Does good photographic documentation effect sales? What about venue? Any art dealer will answer “yes” to this question, though the breakdown of what creates Significant Objects — Murketing blogger Rob Walker and author Joshua Glenn‘s valuation experiment — seems to challenge this notion. Explicitly locating the value of an object in its textual documentation, the project asks writers to create a story based on an assigned thrift store object worth no more than a few dollars. Using that text, a photograph of the object, and eBay’s website, the pieces are then sold, typically for more then their original worth.
For the most part Significant Objects has found willing buyers for these items, the pieces typically going for between $15 and $30 dollars, though some for much more. Are buyers interested in the story, the object or both? I’m not an expert on the minds of collectors, but I’m guessing good photographic documentation and venue-appropriateness play a more significant role in the project than Walker or Glenn acknowledge. After all, what else could explain the poor auction performance of Joanne McNeil’s Grain Thing? Here the author offers up a superior provenance connecting the object to Joseph Cornell, but saddled with poor documentation has thus far only solicited $1.00 in bids. Meanwhile, a well photographed Russian figure with a magical history of lighting things on fire is going for $200. Sure it’s got a good story, but is it worth 200% more? I doubt it, but I get the feeling the object is a little better suited to eBay than McNeil’s. It seems that audience just doesn’t respond to the aura of Joseph Cornell.