NARRATOR: An image of Horatio Alger’s late 19th century novel Strive and Succeed floats on an empty white sheet of paper. The drawing is precisely rendered. The cast shadow and tattered dust jacket give the book a powerful physical presence. 

The drawing is from a series, called The Gift and the Inheritance, featuring books from artist Allen Ruppersberg’s library. Each drawing is sold with the promise that the buyer will inherit the actual book at the artist’s death. So it is not just this drawing, but the promise of a transaction between artist and collector as well. By framing the work in this way, Ruppersberg shifts the focus away from the material properties of the drawing and towards its status as a commodity. The book featured here—a rags-to-riches novel by a famous dramatist of the capitalist ideal—underlines the idea that the drawing is the source of an economic transaction.  Through the series as a whole, Ruppersberg suggests that the exchange of any artwork is part of its history, meaning, and cultural value.


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