Buying A Receipt at Sotheby’s Auction

A 1959 receipt from conceptual artist Yves Klein is being auctioned off on April 6 and is expected to bring in over a half-million dollars for current owner, Loic Malle – who is an art advisor and former gallery owner.

(Update) The Sotheby’s auction sold the receipt for $1,151,467.40 – about three times what it was expected to fetch.

Measuring less than 8 inches wide, the receipt grants ownership of one of Klein’s imaginary spaces, which he dubbed a “Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility.” Designed to resemble a banker’s check, it is signed by the artist and dated to December 7, 1959.

CNNview receipt

As described above, the actual receipt is nothing special to look at. It is framed in an apparently battered, pale yellow frame and similarly beat up matte. Interestingly – the receipt is signed, dated, numbered and stamped – but includes no amount paid to Klein by original owner, Jacques Kugel in 1959.

“Some have likened the transfer of a zone of sensitivity and the invention of receipts as an ancestor of the NFT, which itself allows the exchange of immaterial works,” reads the auction catalog. “If we add that Klein kept a register of the successive owners of the ‘zones,’ it is easy to find here another revolutionary concept — the ‘blockchain’.”

CNNview receipt

Receipts as NFTs?

Comparing receipts to non-fungible tokens (NFTs) sounds like a reach by Sotheby’s, but given some thought, the argument could be made that NFTs are buying immaterial digital art and serve as proof of payment. However, the receipt itself carries the value in the modern use.

Might we look at receipts then, as holders of value for our material items? Receipts do hold actual monetary value if one is attempting to return a recently purchased item for a refund or store credit. Receipts also prove to hold value when warranty repairs or item replacement is claimed. In any of those cases, one could argue that broken or defective material goods are worthless without that receipt.

Perhaps receipts might be sold to others, especially those for expensive, warrantied items? That seems unlikely, but is interesting to think about in light of the Sotheby’s auction catalog description of the sale of that old Yves Klein receipt for “Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility.” Receipts are tied to the listed physical items if they are to contain their own value – one must possess both.

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