Though it may seem like a hoax or an episode of Punk’d, for creative duo Praxis and actor James Franco, the Museum of Non-Visible Art (MONA) is a very real thing. Unlike any museum you’ve visited, MONA contains imagined works rather than tangible art. As the website for the museum states, “Composed entirely of ideas, the Non-Visible Museum redefines the concept of what is real. Although the artworks themselves are not visible, the descriptions open our eyes to a parallel world built of images and words.”
Brainard and Delia Carey, the two artists behind Praxis, originally made headlines in 2000 when they gave away free hugs from their East Village storefront as part of a larger art installation. And now, with the addition of James Franco and a Kickstarter page, MONA aims to start a conversation about how we perceive, value and label art.
When you donate to the Museum of Non-Visible Art through their Kickstarter page, you will receive a piece of art. However, this art is not visible — you are buying the title and description card for an imagined work. Aimee Davison was one supporter who pledged $10,000 for an imagined can of air, a decision that has been met with outrage in her blog comments and beyond. Davison explains, “Sponsoring a social media art project allows a brand or individual to attach their name to a project wherever it appears online.” Therefore, through sponsorship, the individual shares in the hype. Perhaps Davison is right — her expensive purchase has resulted in the publication of her name across several blogs and newspapers, including the one you are reading right now.
So what exactly is MONA? A giant practical joke? A social media status builder? A thoughtful critique of the art industry? That’s just the thing with art — whether visible or not, it will always be subjective.
Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.