The art world erupted into debate after the release of a fake news story concerning a new “artist” Lana Newstrom. Newstrom created attention for herself by showcasing and selling “invisible art.” The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation made the report––it even included an interview and a photograph of people looking at blank walls with the caption “Art enthusiasts admire Newstrom's paintings and sculptures at the Schulberg Gallery in New York.”
Apparently the Canadian radio show specializes in spoofs but to people unfamiliar with the show, the report was taken seriously. According to the article, Newstrom’s concept is about imagining the art, the process and the medium in which the art was made. It made the wild claim that the 27-year-old artist was the first in the world to create this “invisible art.” Although there was absolutely nothing displayed in the gallery, Newstrom’s prices were as high as $35,000 per piece. The empty spaces were titled with vague, misleading names such “Canadian Summer” and “Sleeping Dog.”
What’s even funnier is the fact that even the released photograph is also fake—it’s actually an image taken from a past Phil Stern show in Milan, Italy which showcased the elite American photographer’s major works. So in reality, there’s no documentation of this show; this is essentially just a photoshopped generic image of people looking at art, except in this case, they’re intensely studying nothing.
Whether this is Newstrom’s or CBC’s idea of making social commentary on contemporary art and its herd of followers, it just goes to show how gullible people can be when responding to something they’ve seen in the media. When something gains this much attention for nothing, it proves that the hype is what sells. This was a publicity stunt intended to create a reaction—and it certainly did.
The stunt, however, could be interpreted as offensive and as an insult to artists who are struggling to have their name known. Newstrom received instant fame for doing absolutely nothing. A quote from the website reads, “Just because you can’t see anything, doesn’t mean I didn't put hours of work into creating a particular piece.” There are legitimate contemporary artists who do put in work and struggle to stay unique and relevant, but rarely receive this type of attention.
The stunt also confronts the way we look and interpret art as viewers. Art should create an interaction between the viewer and the piece. In order to have this experience, you should be able to actually see it in person.