Art and Architecture, Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts, Books for the News

RIP JSG Boggs (1954/55–2017)

In 1992 New Yorker critic Lawrence Weschler published Boggs: A Comedy of Values, which made the case for idiosyncratic conceptual artist JSG Boggs (1954/55–2017), whose work fabricated both a physical variety of currencies and the notion of legal tender, when Boggs tried to cash his bills in for goods and services. Boggs died this past week, and was duly eulogized, by both his hometown paper and the art world, and each offer up some details that enhance his story, perfect fodder for a world sorting out “alternate facts” from the “fake news.”

From the Tampa Bay Times:

Mr. Boggs’s full name was James Stephen George Boggs, but he was better known as J.S.G. Boggs and often just as “Boggs.” His art was all about money.

It consisted, in fact, of exquisitely detailed, exact-sized reproductions of American dollars, English pounds and Swiss francs — though with one side left blank and key features drawn with an off-kilter twist.

The George Washingtons on his “Boggs bills” sometimes faced the wrong way. Some were drawn laughing. Others crying. On some notes, Mr. Boggs’ own face appeared in place of the dead presidents. Others he signed above phrases like “crazy cash” or “for what it’s worth.”

Often it was worth more than enough to bring Mr. Boggs meals, art supplies, cab fare, clothes, rented flats, even legal services and stocks and bonds.

From Artnet:

Boggs ran afoul of the Secret Service when they learned of a plan to put $1 million in face value of photocopied Boggs bills into circulation into Pittsburgh, while he was serving a residency at Carnegie Mellon University, in hopes that recipients would continue circulating them in ongoing transactions. The Secret Service quashed the project by pressuring area businesses and collectors by threatening them with prosecution if they participated, says the artist.

Secret Service agents then raided his studio and seized large quantities of his works. When Boggs sued to get them back, a legal case resulted, in which, the artist told Weschler, lawyers argued over whether his works were more fruitfully compared to pornography, which might be protected under free speech laws, or to hard drugs, for whose return no one would have the nerve to sue the government. He had also been tried in courts in London and Sydney.

To read more about Boggs, click here.