Million Dollar Shady

A report about a New York artist named Lana Newstrom who creates "invisible art" was a CBC public radio spoof.


Claim: A New York artist named Lana Newstrom creates and sells "invisible art."


Example: [Collected via e-mail, September 2014]

An artist, Lana Newstrom, is making headlines and actually selling "work" for $35,000 and over with invisible art. She supposedly could not sell her art, so she opened a New York "gallery" which consists of an empty room with bare walls, and tells everyone that the walls contain her "invisible art." Supposedly, people (idiots) go there and pay (but for what?), and she's already a millionaire. This sounds impossible to me.

Origin:On 23 September 2014 (and again on 16 July 2015), the "This is That" program airing on Canada's CBC Radio broadcast a segment about a 27-year old New York artist named Lana Newstrom, who "is the first artist in the world to create invisible 'art.'" The NPR-style piece reported that after Newstrom experienced frustration in creating conventional paintings, sculptures, and other forms of artwork that garnered no significant attention, she turned her hand to creating invisible art that "exists solely in her imagination."

The "This is That" interview with Newstrom detailed the process by which she creates her invisible "art," an effort that involves everything from imagining the shape, color, tone, types of materials, and brushstrokes she uses in her artwork to engaging in imaginary ruminations about how the city had supposedly cut off her water by mistake due to an overdue bill that she had already paid:

"This is That" also pondered questions such as "Is it still considered art if it's invisible?" and reported on Newstrom's being invited to put on an exhibition at New York's prestigious "Schulberg Gallery" (at which she reportedly sold four pieces of invisible art at $35,000 each).

Of course, there was nothing for the "This is That" audience to see since the piece about Lana Newstrom and her invisible art was a radio spot; the coverage of Newstrom's invisible art was audio-based, accompanied only by a short text description on the CBC web site:

27-year-old artist Lana Newstrom says she is the first artist in the world to create invisible "art." In this documentary we traveled to her empty studio to learn more about Lana and her unusual artistic process.

"Just because you can't see anything, doesn't mean I didn't put hours of work into creating a particular piece" — Lana Newstrom, Artist

"Art is about imagination and that is what my work demands of the people interacting with it. You have to imagine a painting or sculpture is in front of you," says Newstrom.

Paul Rooney, Lana's agent, believes she might be the greatest artist alive working today: "When she describes what you can't see, you begin to realize why one of her invisible works can fetch upwards of a million dollars." said Rooney.

In fact, many online users encountered the story only through a graphic that was displayed to listeners who streamed the piece from the CBC's web site:

What many online users missed was that all of this was nothing more than a clever spoof of the art world presented by the "This Is That" program, which is hosted by two comedians, Pat Kelly and Peter Oldring, who fabricate stories satirizing current affairs in a public radio format:

This Is That is a current affairs program that doesn't just talk about the issues, it fabricates them. Nothing is off limits — politics, business, culture, justice, science, religion--if it is relevant to Canadians, we'll find out the "This" and the "That" of the story.

Each week, hosts Pat Kelly and Peter Oldring introduce you to the voices and stories that give this country character in this 100% improvised, satirical send-up of public radio.

The graphic displayed at the head of this article, showing art viewers looking at seemingly empty walls, is actually a picture taken at an exhibit of a Phil Stern photography collection at Forma Photography Foundation in Milan on 16 June 2010, from which the displayed artworks have been digitally removed.

Last updated: 28 January 2016

Originally published: 29 September 2014

Featured Image: CBC

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