Today’s Feature, April 15-16, 2007: Marcel Salathé (Sala) – OneThousandPaintings.com

January 18, 2008 at 5:57 pm (Today's Feature)

Marcel Salathé, the creator of OneThousandPaintings.comMarcel Salathé (Sala) loves puzzles and to be amazed. Which is odd since everyone is puzzled and amazed by him. His work and website, OneThousandPaintings.com has taken the art world by surprise. Some people love it, others “don’t get it” but everyone cannot stop talking about Sala. His art begs the question, why are people fascinated by numbers? Why do athletes insist on wearing a certain number over others? Why do people tend to play the same numbers (over and over) in the lottery? Who knows? For reasons like those, Sala has become the “go-to-guy” for people that are fascinated with numbers. Sala’s work is a combination of art, science, math and well, curiosity. His paintings are beautiful as they are mesmerizing. You can stare at them all day and feel good in knowing that number is yours forever. Or that you should have bought it while you had the chance. The man behind OneThousandPaintings.com is just as unique as the project itself. Read his XXQs to find out more… XXQ

PensEyeView.com (PEV): When did you decide you were going to become an artist?

Sala (S): That’s a hard question to answer. One part of the problem is that I find it very difficult to define what an artist is, because then you also have to define what art is – a problem yet unsolved in my opinion. But to give a more pragmatic answer: I was attracted by art already as a child, when I first fell in love with music. I am not a good musician myself, but I soon realized that I had most fun in writing music, rather than playing it. Over the years, I realized that this was a central theme in my art: I felt more comfortable in creating new things, rather than becoming very good in doing one thing. I believe that there are two very broad categories of artist

S: Those who are very good at creating new things, and those who are very good at performing. I leave it to others to judge me, but I would rather place myself in the first category.

PEV: Has painting always been a passion for you?

S: No – for a long time I have seen painting as something where you have to be good at, and I am a bad painter when it comes to painting objects, for example. Only when I started to think about painting in a conceptual way did I get passionate about it.

PEV: How and when did OneThousandPaintings.com begin?

S: Looking back, I think it began the day I heard of Van Gogh. The reason why I heard of Van Gogh, as a child, is because people were willing to pay millions for his paintings, but not for identical copies of it. OneThousandPaintings.com is an artistic project about art,and the art market in particular. More precisely, OneThousandPaintings.com became a concrete thought at the end of 2005, and I the website finally went online on February 9, 2006.

PEV: Tell us how the OneThousandPaintings.com process works.

S: OneThousandPaintings.com is a project with one thousand paintings, where each painting shows a number from 1 to 1000. All paintings are equals except their unique number. The paintings are exclusively sold at OneThousandPaintings.com, and the price of each painting depends on both the number (higher numbers have lower prices) and the number of paintings sold (more paintings sold means prices go up).

PEV: What was the first number you sold?

S: 524

PEV: Your site is proof that everyone has a favorite number, do you?

S: I think to call it a proof, you would have to repeat the project multiple times and compare it to a control group… Also, most people have their favorite number somewhere between 1 and 100, so the majority of buyers had to chose another number (or they wanted to chose a higher number because of the lower prices).

PEV: What do you think is the fascination with people and their favorite numbers?

S: I think more generally the question is, why are people fascinated by numbers? It’s an interesting question, and I don’t really have an answer. My guess is that numbers are so fascinating because on the one hand, they are fundamentally abstract, but on the other hand, a life without numbers is inconceivable. Also, the great thing about numbers is that they can have totally different meanings – go to any number on OneThousandPaintings.com and look at the long Wikipedia entries for any given number – it’s quite long. And that doesn’t include the personal meanings yet.

PEV: OneThousandPaintings.com has become a global phenomenon. How many different countries have you sold paintings to?

S: 26: US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, China, Singapore, Mexico, Brasil, South Africa, Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Kyrgyzstan, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Portugal, and Israel.

PEV: Once a number is sold, no one can buy that number again. Has anyone ever begged or tried to purchase a number that was already sold?

S: No, but people are willing to pay a lot for numbers that are already sold, especially for one digit numbers.

PEV: How many numbers have sold so far and do you find people prefer a certain series of numbers to another?

S: Right now, I have sold 751 of 1000 paintings. I don’t think there is a certain pattern – everyone has a unique story with their number (s). Numbers that symbolize dates (e.g. 624 for the 24th of June) were maybe a little bit more asked for.

PEV: When you are not working, what do you enjoy doing?

S: I love to be amazed & puzzled. That’s why I love art and science. I think I’m a bit of a workaholic. You need either good entertainment, good wine or good food to keep me away from working.

PEV: Have you ever thought about doing another series, like 1001-2000?

S: I have thought about it and decided not to do it. I don’t want to dilute the project by doing more numbers. It’s like making sequels to a movie, which is hardly ever a good idea.

PEV: Are you working on any other projects besides the OneThousandPaintings.com?

S: Yes, but I can’t really tell much about it. It has to do with art and evolution, but it will take some time before it’s ready to fly. But I think it’s going to be quite interesting.

PEV: All the paintings are blue text on white canvas. Why did you pick blue and that particular font?

S: Gut feeling. I like the combination of blue and white, and I like that font. There was no specific reason.

PEV: If you could sit down to dinner with any artist, living or deceased, who would it be? Why?

S: Allow me two answers, one for living and one for deceased. For a deceased artist, I would choose Hermann Hesse, the German writer. I feel the last few pages of his book Siddhartha contain the most beautiful text that has ever been written in the history of mankind, and sitting next to the man who wrote it would simply be outstanding. For a living artist, I would choose the Australian artist Anthony White. He has opened up an entirely new way of thinking about art, markets and money – he’s a pioneer. I will actually meet him in a couple of months, something I am looking extremely forward to.

PEV: Is there one particular work of art (outside or your work) that stands out as your favorite piece? Why?

S: There are too many to list. As I said, I love to be puzzled and amazed. A lot of works of art have done that.

PEV: You live in Switzerland. How has your home country reacted to the OneThousandPaintings.com fame?

S: Yes, I think so. The largest TV station has run a feature on the project last November during prime time, and it had a strong impact on both sales and how well known the project is in Switzerland.

PEV: Did you ever think that OneThousandPaintings.com would be this successful so quick? That must make you feel pretty good?

S: No, I didn’t expect it at all. I don’t feel any different than before, but it is always satisfying when your ideas are “understood” by many people.

PEV: In all your travels, which city has the best environment for the art community?

S: Since so many things can be done on the web, it’s becoming less and less important where you are. For example, I live in Zurich, and there is excellent art in Zurich, but I could have started this project anywhere.

PEV: So, what is next for Sala?

S: I will travel quite a lot this year. Next year, I will move to California. In the meantime, I will try to kick off my new project. For more information on Marcel Salathé, find out more about the One Thousand Paintings project and see what he has planned next, go to http://www.OneThousandPaintings.com

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