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Mexican Artist Delivers Post Modern Art

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

10 DECEMBER 2008 - Clear your mailbox carefully this week, you may find something valuable nestled amongst your Christmas cards - if you are lucky, you will find a piece of international art. A thousand Christchurch residents in various suburbs will receive a work from Mexican artist Beltrn in the mail, as part of SCAPE 2008. The work, entitled "The Booty", refers to a very rare and sought after stamp called the "Penny Claret", which dates back to Christchurch's 1906 International Exhibition of Art and Industries. To commemorate that occasion, New Zealand Post produced 24,000 "Penny Claret" stamps. Printing issues meant all those stamps had to be destroyed, but a handling error meant around 60 accidentally remained in circulation. At first, the new artwork looks like any other letter, but SCAPE Director Deborah McCormick says this "stamped" envelope deserves a second look. "Beltrn's artwork focuses on the creation of value for specific objects and symbols. He is very interested in the irony of recirculating a replica Penny Claret given that the stamps only became valuable because of the manner in which they had been handled," she says. An original Penny Claret can fetch up to $40,000. Deborah McCormick says Beltrn has used clues within his work to create the perception of value. "Beltrn has circulated the stamps with limited information to encourage recipients of the replica to investigate the history and value of the original. We encourage people who receive the stamps to treasure them as the worthy collectable item they are," she says. The Penny Claret replica stamps cannot be used as normal postage stamps. To ensure the stamps can be easily recognised as replicas, they have been made noticeably different from the originals. The stamps are 25% larger and do not carry postage marks. They are also a different colour than the originals. "The Booty" artwork was developed in consultation with New Zealand Post and the company that prints stamps in New Zealand. The majority of public art featured during SCAPE 2008 was removed on November 9 (outdoors) and at the end of November at Christchurch Art Gallery. During the exhibition the work of 18 international artists and seven New Zealand artists was displayed throughout the streets of Christchurch. SCAPE 2008 exceeded expectations and attracted a high number of visitors who were confronted with memorable artworks that challenged people's perceptions of the cultural and urban texture of the city. SCAPE, the only New Zealand biennial which commissions new works of art in public space, saw 90% new works premiered in Christchurch.

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