Joke's on the ECB with Bulgarian 'standby art'

The newest addition to the art display at the European Central Bank is a giant rock-like chunk of aluminum, but its Bulgarian creator has promised to replace it with a glorious masterpiece.

There’s just one catch. Before that can happen, artist Nedko Solakov says the Frankfurt-based institution must fulfill all its goals and all of its staff must be “completely satisfied” – a condition he has inscribed on a plaque on the side of the dark oval hulk.

“This will of course never happen because a serious institution is never satisfied,” he told Reuters. “I just let the people imagine what the sculpture would look like.”

The work, entitled “A Site-Specific Piece on Stand-by”, will stand in a cavernous hall, 54 meters (177 feet) high, and will be formally unveiled by ECB President Mario Draghi this week.

Solakov said he wanted to express irony and humor, directed in part at the severe restrictions imposed on him.

“I couldn’t use anything flammable, it couldn’t be too heavy, it couldn’t be too high because it would cross the laser security beams,” he said.

Handwritten doodles and jokes adorn the work itself and — confusingly for cleaning staff — the rest of the hall, including the elevator sign. Some of them are grammatical corrections of the lengthy inscription.

But Solakov said he is not making fun of the institution, which he said he considered one of Europe’s most important.

The ECB liked the joke: it chose Solakov’s work as one of three art installations for which it paid a combined 1.25 million euros ($1.41 million).

(Editing by Michael Roddy and Mark Trevelyan)

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