A horde of excited bounty hunters armed with metal detectors and high hopes have swarmed to a British beach following news that a German artist has buried thirty bars of gold there.
Berlin-based Michael Sailstorfer buried the gold bullion worth $17,000 in Folkestone, southeast England as part of a forthcoming arts festival.
Eager treasure seekers have flooded the beach because they have been informed that any member of the public who finds any of the 24-karat bullion will be allowed to keep it.
Regardless of your views on modern conceptual art, this latest stunt by Sailstorfer is something of a PR masterpiece and far more attractive to your common philistine than such highbrow artistic creations as an unmade bed or a cow cut in two with a chainsaw.
Finding gold bars buried on the beach is the sort of swashbuckling adventure you dream about as a young kid.
Uncovering treasure hidden deep within the sand was once usually the sole prerogative of pirate princes and heroes of the high seas, but thanks to the generosity of Sailstorfer, the gold dream is now accessible for the common plebeian, and what’s more it’s all in the name of art rather than rampant capitalism.
So what’s not to like about being given the opportunity to find buried booty and lots of it.
The Folkestone Triennial’s website said the German artist behind the project was interested in: “The disruption of the everyday.”
Sailstorfer is intent on expanding the notion of classical sculpture and Folkestone Digs is a continuation of his aim to “make art that comes less from the head and more from the stomach.'”
Well that’s all very well, but appreciating art that comes from the stomach is not something most of the bounty hunters can probably dig.
One hopeful prospector told The Guardian:
“One bar would do me. I wouldn’t even sell it, I would just keep it and look at it.”
Another treasure hunter said:
“It is the first art in the world where I’ve hopped in a car and drove to see it straight away, so that’s something.”
However. If you’re thinking of jumping on a jet plane to cross the Atlantic and take part in the gold rush. A word of caution. There’s no gold like fool’s gold.
As festival curator Lewis Biggs pointed out to the BBC:
“There are 30 gold bars buried there, along with a lot of washers, so if you bring your metal detector you will find a lot of washers before you find any gold.”
Lewis lamented ruefully:
“We will never know if the gold has been found or not.”
It is also hoped that all the bounty hunters digging on the beach would create a work of art by making sand castles at the same time. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.