French artist sells work in 'game' with the devil

25th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

A French artist has struck an unusual deal to sell his latest work: instead of paying up front, the buyer will hand over a regular fee until the artist dies.

MALAKOFF - Christian Boltanski said his deal with Australian professional gambler David Walsh was a "game" with the devil -- but not a pact.

The work involves four video cameras filming Boltanski's studio in suburban Paris, day and night, from January until his death, with images relayed live to a cave in Tasmania, Australia.

"This man (Walsh) thinks he can beat the odds and he says he never loses," Boltanski, 65, told AFP in an interview at the studio in Malakoff, in the southwest Paris suburbs.

"Anyone who never loses or thinks he never loses must be the devil."

Rather than handing over the price of the work in one lump sum, Walsh will make regular payments -- monthly or annual, the artist did not say -- until Boltanski's death.

The longer Boltanski lives, the more Walsh has to pay.

Walsh, a professional gambler who made his fortune in casinos, worked out that he would make money from the deal if Boltanski dies within the next eight years.

"If I die in three years, he wins. If I die in 10 years, he loses," Boltanski said.

"He has assured me I will die before the eight years is up because he never loses. He's probably right. I don't look after myself very well.

"But I'm going to try to survive. You can always fight against the devil."

It was Boltanski -- a doctor's son with a lifelong fascination with death -- who came up with the unusual payment scheme and he seems unfazed by the prospect of being on camera so much of the time.

"It's not my bedroom, it's just my studio," he said, and in any case the pictures are going to Tasmania, where "no-one ever goes".

The images will be stored on DVD, but as long as the artist is still alive, there are restrictions on what Walsh can do with them.

Walsh has a passion for the macabre, the Boltanski said, and collects Egyptian mummies.

"He wanted to buy my ashes, but I refused. I don't want to end up in Tasmania. There's a little temple in Japan that will suit me just fine," he said.


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