Who Really Created the First Invisible Sculpture?

Who Really Created the First Invisible Sculpture?

As if NFTs weren't already bad enough, there is a new debate raging in the art world over who actually was the first artist to get away with making an "invisible" sculpture.

Italian artist Salvatore Garau made headlines back in May when he successfully sold an invisible sculpture for $18,000. The intangible work, Io Sono, (which translates to "I am" in English) was met with an admittedly expected amount of controversy for a sculpture made of literally nothing when it went to auction.

Garau justified the invisible sculpture by saying "the vacuum is nothing more than a space full of energy, and even if we empty it and there is nothing left, according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, that nothing has a weight, therefore, it has energy that is condensed and transformed into particles, that is, into us."

And while, like Schrödinger's cat, it is entirely impossible to prove or disprove the sculpture's existence (which may kind of be the entire point Garau is trying to make), the fact that the big ol' pile of nothing sold for roughly twice the asking price does kind of undermine the credibility of the fine art world, at least in the public eye.

That being said, an entirely different controversy surrounding the invisible sculpture is making waves now.

Florida-based performance artist, Tom Miller, has come forward to claim he was actually the first artist to make a sculpture out of nothing and should get the recognition for it. Miller points to his own 2016 work, "Nothing," which was installed (took place?) in Gainesville at Bo Diddley Community Plaza and involved builders/ mimes assembling blocks of air over the course of five days as evidence that he was the first pioneer the concept of an invisible sculpture.

"All I can say personally is that 'Nothing' is very important to me," Miller tells Artnet News. "I should be credited with 'Nothing' (specifically the idea of 'Nothing' fashioned into sculpture form), and Gainesville, Florida — not Italy — is where 'Nothing' happened first."

Miller says he reached out to Garau about the issue but was basically brushed off and now is looking to file a lawsuit against the Italian artists as a result. "When I saw (Garau's work), I thought, 'Well that's exactly my idea,'" Miller tells local outlet, WCJB-TV. "I simply wanted that attribution. I contacted him, he dismissed it away, and then I hired an Italian attorney."

However, asDazedpoints out, Miller and Garau are hardly the first artists to play with the concept of invisibility in their work. Yves Klein, Maurizio Cattelan and Willem de Kooning have all previously played with the concept, while Andy Warhol's "Invisible Sculpture" (1985) is perhaps the most well known example of the absence of any physical object being art. Either way, it's a whole lot of to do over nothing.

Photo via Getty