I love the visual vernacular of street signage. From graffiti and propaganda to murals and installations, it’s these corners of communication that catch my eye with their authenticity. Whether one-off and site specific or characterized by an “Obey Giant”–like ubiquity, they are the detritus of design. I also collect tattered scraps of paper—incomplete homework assignments, shopping lists left behind in shopping baskets, urgent napkin poems. My heart goes out to these authentic artifacts, produced without a marketing department, created by the creator with a singular purpose. And I always try to envision the context in which each of these were created, the people who made them and their lives.
So it’s no surprise that I love Cash for Your Warhol. Started as a conceptual, comical response to the 2009 recession by part-time artist and full-time wealth manager Geoff Hargadon, the campaign consists of a headline, a phone number (originally his personal cell phone, now a Google Voice number), and some impetus in the form of a tagline. Keeping with and responding to the times, the calls to action have ranged from “Higher Prices—Lower Fees!” and “Fund Your Startup—Avoid Dilution!” to the more obtuse “Free authentication services!” The installations are most commonly corrugated plastic signs, cheaply silkscreened—the stuff that ubiquity is made of—but they have also taken the form of billboards, street-level retail windows, and now, stickers. The signs are installed alongside similarly styled services offering cash for gold, house-buying services and other ways to turn a quick buck.
Hargadon, who also goes by the more conceptual “Hargo,” is amused by the responses. Not only has he cataloged each of the 3,000-plus phone calls he’s received over the past four years, he brings signs with him everywhere he travels and photographs the installations. His original signs now fetch upwards of $1,000 apiece. Sadly, not enough to purchase an original Warhol.
Way to co-opt Warhol’s own ideas and expand our vernacular, Hargo.