Blog: Is Public Activism Art?

Christine Alfery

Posted on October 30 2020

Blog: Is Public Activism Art?
Image courtesy of


One of the art magazines I follow recently featured an art exhibit where a group of artists had taken people’s medical bills, created a painting of them, put them on the wall in an art gallery, and sold them as art.

3 medical bills

By offering the art for sale, the artists said they “set two monetary forces equal and opposite one another, thereby nullifying the bill.” The art magazine described the artwork as “quasi-conceptual” and “clever institutional critique”. 

Does making a painting of a medical bill and putting it on the wall make it art?

 Let’s ask some questions to determine if this is “art” or something else. 

Is it unique? Yes. I can honestly say I have not seen anyone do this before.

Is the work authentic? Google Dictionary defines authentic as “of undisputed origin; genuine.” So the answer here can also be yes. 

Is the individual artist in the work? No, they are not. The painting simply replicates the original medical bill.

Is the work totally free? No. It is bound to another’s opinion. This type of activism is groupthink masquerading as art.  

To me, art is an expression of the unique individual artist who created it. True art is the free and unencumbered inspiration of the artist. These are both missing in these paintings. This is activism – not art. Simply hanging something on the wall does not make it art. 

Banana art
Banana, Art Basel Miami 2019 

More Posts