Andy Goldsworthy creates transitory art using the materials of a place.

THERE WAS A BUZZ, but nothing out of the ordinary, when Edward Munch’s “The Scream” sold for $120 million earlier this year. After the Royal Family of Qatar purchased Paul Cezanne’s “The Card Players” for an estimated $254 million in 2011, it might have seemed like a bargain. The latter deal was groundbreaking, and still holds suit as the most expensive painting purchase in history.

So why all the fuss in Australia the last few weeks, where the public art fund of Queensland recently unveiled a rock sculpture in the mountains outside of Brisbane with a price tag of $700,000?

Not all artwork is meant to change hands, or even be valued. This is especially true in the ephemeral art world, where Andy Goldsworthy, the sculptor and artist behind the “Strangler Cairn,” is a central figure. For transitory works of art like his, the role of time and fate are intrinsic to a piece’s allure, but they leave plenty of room for debate when it comes to value.

Goldsworthy’s newest installment is a 12ft rock sculpture of hand-cut granite and slate. The rock, and all other materials, were sourced locally — something the artist is known for. The sculpture’s egg shape is also easily identifiable with Goldsworthy, but what makes this piece unique is the strangler fig sapling he planted inside of it. In a matter of years the fig will rupture and overcome the artwork; that’s what may have pushed the proverbial envelope for local taxpayers who are now asking if this was the best use of public funds.

Goldsworthy explained his motivations and thoughts in his normal, succinct way:

I think it would be difficult to use anything that came from off site. We’re using material in a way that helps the understanding of a place. There’s clay, there’s stone, there are these amazing fig trees that wrap themselves around stones or other trees.

The artwork was commissioned by Art + Place, the public art fund of Queensland, for the Conondale Range Great Walk area in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. It was intended to embody and embellish the chosen route and environment of the Great Walk.

Readers poll + art post

Between an artwork of this sort, and the varieties of experience sought by independent travelers, there is something important to connect: Inherent in both is an authentic and meaningful connection between a subject and his or her immediate environment. Following that thread, we thought it would be more than relevant to hear your opinion: Was the “Strangler Cairn” worth $700,000? To hear more from Andy Goldsworthy, check out this video from the Arts Queensland site above, and then let us know.

And if you’ve dabbled in transient art, or stumbled across some compelling pieces during your travels, post links to the images in the comments below.

1

Goldsworthy's stones

This and the image below or homages to Goldsworthy's art, where the photographer has montaged a single artwork. Pretty cool.

Photo: iurikothe
2

Sticks framing a lake

Photo: iurikothe

3

At the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Photo: Barkaw

4

In the Museum Of Scotland in Edinburgh

Photo: ejbaurdo

5

Oak cairn

Photo: OctopusHat

6

Alderney stone

Photo: neilalderney123