Organisers of the Folkestone Triennial this afternoon revealed details of a project it has been desperately trying to keep under wraps.
The German artist Michael Sailstorfer has buried gold bullion in the sand of the Outer Harbour beach and once the sea is out, people will be able to come and dig for it.
"I think we might well have a lot of people," said the Triennial curator, Lewis Biggs, with understatement. "It is a participatory artwork. It is about people coming to the beach and digging and possibly finding hidden treasure. Some people will get lucky, some people will not get lucky – and that's life."
The bars are of different sizes and standard gold bullion marked Made in London, although anyone expecting the kind of gold bars you see in heist movies may be disappointed.
Nevertheless, each bar could be worth several hundred pounds and if you find one – it's yours. Biggs said the work raised intriguing questions about what people would do with any gold they found. "An interesting part of the art work is considering whether it is going to be worth more as an art work. Do you take it to the pawnbrokers or do you take it to Sotheby's? Or do you keep it on the mantlepiece because you think it is going to be worth more later? Will its price increase as an artwork or as a piece of gold?"
The piece, called Folkestone Digs, has been commissioned by the Bristol-based arts producers Situations, an organisation which is trying to change the perception of what public art can be, its director, Claire Doherty, said.
"So often public art funding is spent on a static sculpture or a bauble on a roundabout and part of what we do is to say, actually sometimes a temporary project can have as much impact in the collective memory as something that has been there a long time."
Possibly nothing more so than free gold on the beach.
Doherty said she had no idea who or how many people would respond to the buried gold. Would, she said, the slickly suited art critics down from London for the day be digging alongside members of the public? "What happens will happen. Maybe nobody will go and look."
As well as the fun of finding gold, organisers believe the mass digging of the beach will create its own piece of land art, washed away when the tide comes back in. The next day it can start all over again.
"The piece lasts forever because no one will ever know if all the pieces have ever be found or not," said Biggs. "A lot of people won't admit to having found one even if they have. Would you? We see no end to the artwork. It is meant to be a lot of fun." Rated Best Metal Detector: http://www.ebay.com/
The Berlin-based Sailstorfer has chosen not to be in Folkestone for what could become remembered as the great bucket and spade gold rush of 2014. He wants to let "the work unfold," said Doherty. "As simple as that."
Sailstorfer is interested in changing the way people view a place and his previous work includes collecting fallen autumn leaves, painting them green and re-attaching them to a tree so it looks like spring. Another involved him feeding the rotting wooden walls of a chalet to a woodburner over the course of a day until nothing remained in the landscape except the woodburner. Read More here: http://www.theguardian.com/