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Money Artist Will Only Barter Bills

December 21, 1987|PAUL DEAN | Times Staff Writer

Money artist Boggs--big spender of large bills that he draws himself--apparently cannot be bought.

Not by the Beverly Hills cleaner who telephoned and offered to freshen his wardrobe in exchange for a Boggs note. Not by the Santa Monica jeweler ready to barter a pair of gold cuff links for Boggs' bucks. Not the two hotels, the pair of photographers, the three clothing stores, the restaurants. . . .

"Because they had read about me in The Times on Wednesday, they knew that there was a market for my work and here was an opportunity for them to make money off me," said Boggs.

The Power of Bartering

The callers also had read that Boggs has been bartering his homemade money for three years now, trading it to pay apartment rent in London, hotel bills in Switzerland, meals in New York, shirts in Paris and dinner and drinks just about everywhere.

"So the value of my work was established when they called, without me ever having talked to them, and that's not the way I work," he said. "I either turned them down or didn't return the calls."

Boggs, an American artist living in London, had arrived in Los Angeles last week to exhibit his homemade money at ART/LA '87.

He enjoys fame in Europe, even notoriety as the recent victor in a criminal case brought against him by the Bank of England--who considered his work forgeries, not fine art. Fortunately for Boggs, the jury considered the bank's case to be overdrawn.

But in Los Angeles . . . well, when Boggs tried to spend one of his free-hand $100 bills on Rodeo Drive, he was turned down by a half-dozen name stores and came close to being run out of Beverly Hills.

Yet, noted Wednesday's story on his chilly shopping spree, Boggs' hand-drawn bills have sold in Europe for as much as $3,000.

And that brought the letters and phone calls from people who might not have known much about art but certainly knew what they liked about money.

"Too late," said Boggs. "It's a question of artistic integrity. I'll only spend my drawn money when the transaction is totally clean, the person doesn't know who I am, hasn't seen any press exposure and has no idea of the value of my money . . . except the value we had negotiated, what it is worth to them as a piece of art."

Proposed Collection

It also, he agreed, would dilute the value of a proposed collection of home-drawn bills that will be called: "The LA Experience."

It would include all the money art that Boggs was able to exchange for goods and services during his Los Angeles visit. Three pieces have already been repurchased (for double their face value) by Rudy Demenga, Boggs' agent and owner of the Demenga Gallery in Basel, Switzerland. "And I make the same offer, twice the face value of the bills, for the half-dozen notes we know are still in circulation," Demenga said.

At least two recipients of Boggs' money--including an art-loving stock broker who opened a mutual fund account for Boggs in exchange for his sketch of a $200 bill--have refused to resell their funny money to Demenga.

Others--a cab driver who accepted a $50, a Flash Art magazine salesman who took a $50 in exchange for a subscription, and a waiter in a Chinese restaurant who received a $10 Boggs--cannot be located.

Centerpiece of "The LA Experience," of course, will be the now desirous and heavily appreciated $100 bill that was rejected on Rodeo Drive.

"With that in its history," said Boggs, "it should increase in value to about $5,000."

Boggs left Los Angeles on Wednesday for family and friends and Christmas in Tampa, Fla. He caught Continental Flight 885 from LAX.

A Continental ticket agent, although kind, although appreciative, just could not accept a hand-drawn $200 and a $100 bill for the $280 air fare.

But Chuck and Judy Goodstein, who had met Boggs at ART/LA and had driven to LAX to see him at work, became fascinated by the transaction.

So Boggs bartered his bills with the agent who then handed them to the Goodsteins who, said Judy Goodstein, "paid (the agent) with $300 in cash."

The $20 in change, of course, went to Boggs.

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