As those of us without mountains of money continue to gawk and gripe over the unceasingly exorbitant sums fetched by art auctions, a Swedish glassware brand has gone out on a limb and tried something different: auctioning off artworks to people who have the strongest physical reactions to them.
Kosta Boda, a Swedish company that deals in both commercial glassware and art glass, held an event at its Stockholm gallery last month that was billed as “an auction based on emotions.” People could place blind bids in advance for one of three pieces, but all the artworks were kept secret until the night of the event. When that time came, each bidder was brought into a room and hooked up to a series of sensors on their hand and ear. The artwork was then unveiled while the sensors measured the viewer’s heart rate and galvanic skin response (a change in sweat on the hand). Those with the strongest responses won the works: “Acrobatic Music” by Kjell Engman, priced at €8,500; “Super Protection 2” by Åsa Jungnelius, €1,900; and “Protocol” by Bertil Vallien, €15,000.
“It doesn’t really matter if you feel happy about it, or if you feel sad, or angry … just don’t be monotone, or just feel something at least,” said Daniel Solving, CEO of Göteborg-based digital studio Humblebee, which worked on the project, in a BBC News video. Of course the science of measuring feelings is fairly imprecise, and calling this “an auction based on emotions” may be a bit of a stretch. But it’s an intriguing break from the auctions we’re used to, which seem increasingly to be based on nothing but ego.