In August, San Francisco artist Ronald Chase gave away 600 works on paper out of his Mission Street studio. His charitable action (or performance) attracted significant media attention, including an article by Callier Millner in SFGate and a KQED interview. While for the 80-year old painter, photographer and filmmaker this gesture can be interpreted as part of estate "house cleaning" at this late stage of his career, the practice of massive art give-away is not new. In 2008, 30-year old British street artist Adam Neate scattered 1000 hand-painted pieces (estimated at a million pounds) throughout London for anyone who finds them. From August 1 to August 10, 2012, Ted Mikulski gave away 100 works of art per day in Manhattan as a precursor to his solo exhibition at Dorian Gray Gallery, which opening on August 11. In May 2014, a Vancouver artist Zebulon Austin placed paintings in obscure locations throughout the city, posting pictures on Facebook, from which his followers were able to determine the paintings' locations and claim the works for free.
A publicity stunt? A playful way to reduce inventory? A way to appreciate the value of art by claiming media attention? A sure way to devalue the work? There is not one answer and the outcome depends on many factors and circumstances. However, for late career artists such a generous and and joyful action is worth considering.