Works of art involving legal documents:

  • Suzanne Lacy, The Body Contract (1974): the artist collaberated with a team of lawyers to devise a contract that would allow her to sell her non-vital organs (removed from her via the same surgical procedures used for organ transplants) to art dealers as "art objects."
  • Yves Klein, Zone de Sensibilité Picturale Immatérielle (1962): the artist highlights the everyday ritual of "immaterial" financial transaction as the aesthetic experience (actually raising it to a quasi-spiritual dimension), offering buyers plots of imaginary space in exchange for gold so that they could experience "the Void." In turn he would issue the buyers certificates in the form of cheque receipts, sometimes burning even those remaining artifacts and throwing the ashes into the water. The idea is that the product of spiritual transformation is an intangible idea, and financial investment in an immaterial idea still potentially imbues something with personal significance.
  • Kristin Lucas, Refresh (2007): the artist went to court and legally changed her name from "Kristin Sue Lucas" to "Kristin Sue Lucas" as if to refresh her name like a web-page. Transcription of the court hearing can be downloaded here.
  • Santiago Sierra, Death Counter (2009): the artist offered a sculpture flashing the statistical projection of the number of people who die globally per second in an entire year in exchange for the provision of life insurance equal to the value of the sculpture loaned.
  • Etienne Chambaud, The Siren’s Stage: The Artist’s Reserved Rights, Transfer and Sale Agreement Installation view at David Roberts Art Foundation) (2010): the artist displayed legal documentation in the absence of an invisible sealed artwork (itself a papier-mache copy) held in storage at each venue.
  • Marcel Duchamp, Monte Carlo Bond (No. 12) (1924): the artist created bonds as art objects, designated to be issued to the public through a stock company established by him. The purpose of the bonds was to encourage investment in a financial system for playing roulette.
  • Robert Morris, Document (1963): Morris sold another work, Litanies ("Exhibit A" in the hyperlink image) to Philip Johnson, but when he did not recieve payment for it, he created Statement of Aesthetic Withdrawal, which denied that Litanies had any aesthetic content. Johnson in turn paid for Document and accepted it as a work of art.
  • Superflex, Corruption Contract (2009): the impossible "legal" contract, signed by the exhibition curators, paradoxically required its signers to take part in illegal activities, such as bribery and embezzlement: "The aim and purpose of this contract is to threaten the stability and security of society, undermine the institutions and values of democracy, ethical values and justice, and jeopardize sustainable development and the rule of law."
  • Carey Young, Declared Void (2005): the artist declared that the US constitution did not apply to a specific corner zone of the Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Members of the public were invited to visit the purported anarchist corner and temporarily rid themselves of their governmental protections, obligations, and rights.
  • Maria Nordman, Washington and Beethoven (1979): (image not available) the artist bought out an empty indoor space in Los Angeles and declared it free and open to the public. It was initially intended to remain forever a part of the city's public space, but due to unforeseen circumstances it eventually fell back to its or its original use. The work involves legal contracts in terms of its role in ownership in relation to private/public space. More anarchist-leaning artists have bypassed the law to claim free use of a building, such as the artists' squat Kunsthaus Tacheles in Berlin.
  • Jill Magid, Auto Portrait Pending (2005): the artist entered into a contract with a US-based diamond company, Life Gem, that upon her death it would transform the carbon from her cremated remains into a one-carat diamond. The link above shows the diamond she exhibited in her exhibition at the Centre d’Arte Santa Monica, Barcelona as a "preview" of what she will become after she dies.
  • Andrea Fraser, Untitled (2003): the dealer signed a contract in which he was to have sex with the artist as "payment" for the work. Their intercourse was filmed and displayed as a work of art.
  • Wim Delvoye, Tim (2008): the artist, who formerly tattooed designs on pigs and diplayed their skins as art after they died, now tattooed his signature body art on a human subject from Zurich, Tim Steiner. His tattoo was sold to a German art dealer for €150,000. Steiner is legally required to display his tattoo in public and private shows three times a year, and after he dies the tattooed skin is to be removed from his corpse and displayed on gallery walls, just like Delvoye's tattooed pigs. The transaction, the legal contract, the implications of a man sacrificing his time to exhibit his body as art are all considered an integral part of the work.
  • Sam Hsieh, One Year Performance 1978–1979 (Cage Piece) (1978-9): the performance artist locked himself in a wooden cage for an entire year. A lawyer, Robert Projansky, notarized the entire process and made sure the artist never left the cage during that period.
  • Agnes Bolt, Dealing (2011): A signed contract between the performance artist and art collector Philippa Hughes. Bolt spent a week inside a bubble in Hughe's home and displayed the documentation the in an exhibition at the gallery Project 4. The written contract can be found in Harper's Magazine, issue for August 2011 (section titled "Insider Art"). An image of the contract can also be found in the slideshow provided in the link to the review above.
  • Artie Vierkant, A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter (2009): Combining Robert Morris' Box With the Sound of Its Own Making with Baudrillard's writing on the art auction this sculpture exists in eternal transactional flux. It is a physical sculpture that is perptually attempting to auction itself on eBay. Every ten minutes the black box pings a server on the internet via the ethernet connection to check if it is for sale on the eBay. If its auction has ended or it has sold, it automatically creates a new auction of itself. If a person buys it on eBay, the current owner is required to send it to the new owner. The new owner must then plug it into ethernet, and the cycle repeats itself.
  • Thomas Hirschhorn, Musée Précaire Alibinet (Albinet precarious museum) (2004): in partnership with the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, the artist created a temporary art exhibition space in the housing development sites of the Landy neighborhood outside Paris. "Each week for a period of two months, a work taken from the collections of the French National Museum of Modern Art was presented in a makeshift space built for the occasion with the help of the local housing project’s residents, so that they might be given access to a culture that is often alien to them. The newspaper Le Parisien thus offered 'Dali, c’est gratuit” (Dali for free) as the title for an article about this noble attempt at sharing, which Yvane Chapuis designated as “the love of art.'" Fabien Danesi, "Mass for Marcel Mauss: Gifts, Exchanges, and Potlach in Contemporary Art"
  • Linda Montano and Tehching Hsieh, One Year Art / Life Performance (statement) (1983-4): The artists lived tied to each other by an 8-ft. rope for 1 year.