In June 2021, news articles were published about an Italian artist who reportedly sold an invisible sculpture at auction for more than $18,000. Popular podcast host Joe Rogan posted a screenshot of one such article to their Instagram page which quickly racked up hundreds of thousands of likes.
There are a number of things about this story that we can confirm. Italian artist Salvatore Garau exists. The Art Rite auction house where this sculpture was "sold" exists. A certificate of authenticity exists. But the sculpture? Let's just say we haven't seen enough evidence.
According to the Art Rite auction house, this invisible sculpture, entitled Lo Sono, outdid its estimate and sold for €14,820.00 (about $18,030) on May 18, 2021, during the "4-U new Contemporary Art Auction." The auction house lists all of the items sold at this auction here. You can see the listing for Garau's "Lo Sono" below. (It's the one that looks blank).
This invisible sculpture was also put on "display" by the auction house. Art Rite auction allows visitors to their site to take "3D tours" of their auctions. The following image comes from this tour. We added a red arrow to help viewers find this invisible sculpture:
We reached out to the auction house for more information about this sale. While the name of the buyer has not been made public, the auction house wrote on its website that this anonymous buyer brought home a certificate of authenticity from the artist in addition to their intangible sculpture:
Garau said in an interview with the auction house (translated via Google):
The “Invisible Sculptures”, what they are?
Rather than invisible sculptures, I would define them as immaterial sculptures. My fantasy, trained for a lifetime to feel differently the existing around me, allows me to ‘see’ what apparently does not exist. The intangible sculptures are works that I feel as physical. Into the void there is a container of positive and negative possibilities that are constantly equivalent, in short, there is a density of events.
Furthermore, the void is nothing more than a space full of energy, even if we empty it of electromagnetic fields, neutrinos, dark matter - in a way that nothing remains - it stands out that according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle (which I recently read with enthusiasm) nothing has a weight! Therefore, it has an energy that condenses and turns into particles, in short, in us! The abstract and spiritual intuition I had as an artist is then supported by science...
Could you tell us about the creative process that led you to conceive the “Absences”?
For a long time, I have been attracted to what is perceived not only with the eyes but with all the senses. Already in the black paintings of '84 and in the others later, black colour dissolved in a sort of ectoplasm, indefinite amoebic presences, so that I wanted to make visible thought of non-existent space.
According to Artnet.com, Lo Sono is not the first invisible sculpture that Garau has created:
Lo Sono isn’t the only artwork of its kind in Garau’s oeuvre. In February of this year, at the Piazza Della Scala in Milan, the artist exhibited BUDDHA IN CONTEMPLATION, a similarly invisible sculpture demarcated by a square of tape on a cobble-stoned walkway. Meanwhile, this week, he installed AFRODITE CRIES in front of the New York City stock exchange. The effort, evidenced by an empty white circle, was supported by the Italian Cultural Institute.
Here's a video of the Buddha in Contemplation sculpture, which, to our untrained artistic eyes, bares a suspiciously similar resemblance to Lo Sono.