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Taking aim: Highlights from Art Basel

Photo: Galería Valenzuela Klenner, Bogota, Colombia

“Insertion Into Ideological Circuit #1” by Edwin Sanchez (born in 1976 in Bogota, Colombia) uses a gun — the coin of the Bogota black-market — to explore the very notion of currency, as well as the artist’s own internal tension between belonging to that underworld and desiring to escape.

The artist purchased a Smith & Wesson .38 Special on the black market for the equivalent of $50. He then engraved it with words describing hopes, dreams and wishes for himself as an artist and as a man: which famous collector he hopes will buy his work, which art school scholarship he wishes to obtain, how many times a day he would like to have sex, and so on. It also bears inscriptions of the baser desires of some who own illegal guns. The gun “reads” like the often lovelorn scribbles you see in someone’s high school yearbook or carved into the public spaces of nearly every urban center in the world, but also like the furtive graffiti of a prisoner.

Sanchez photographed his engraved gun and tried to sell it back into the black market in Bogota. He found that, instead of increasing the value of the gun, his artistic markings had devalued it: he got $35. By contrast, the artist’s photographs of the gun and the map he drew showing his commercial odyssey in the streets of Bogota are now on sale for thousands of dollars to international collectors gathered at this parallel marketplace known as Miami Art Basel.

Laura van Straaten has written and produced stories on a wide array of topics for NBC News, CNN, PBS, The Daily Beast, Parade, Redbook and many other media.

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