This morning, joggers in New York’s Central Park may have come across a curious, rather illustrious sight. A cube composed of 186 kilograms of pure 24-karat gold, conceived by the German artist Niclas Castello who has billed it as a conceptual “socle du monde” (base of the world) sculpture for our time, was wheeled out to the Naumburg Bandshell this morning at around 5 a.m.
Although the work is not for sale, according to the artist’s team, based on the current price of gold at $1,788 per ounce, its material worth is around $11.7 million. Flanked by a heavy security detail, the 410-pound work is set to be displayed in the park until the day’s end.
In a message sent this morning to Artnet News, Castello called the work “a conceptual work of art in all its facets.” He said the idea was to “create something that is beyond our world—that is intangible.”
And so, as with all things in 2022, an accompanying cryptocurrency is being launched alongside the physical artwork. The Castello Coin, traded as $CAST, is available for purchase online at an initial price of €0.39 ($0.44) each, with an accompanying NFT auction scheduled for 21 February.
“The cube can be seen as a sort of communiqué between an emerging 21st-century cultural ecosystem based on crypto and the ancient world where gold reigned supreme,” says the Viennese gallerist Lisa Kandlhofer, who was in New York for the artwork’s launch.
According to Castello’s team, golden cube was cast at a foundry in Aarau, Switzerland, requiring a special handmade kiln in order to withstand both the sheer size and volume of gold, as well as the extreme temperatures needed to melt it, reaching up to 1100 degrees Celsius. The cube measures over a foot and a half on all sides and has a wall thickness of about a quarter inch.
Later tonight, the sculpture will make its way to a private dinner on Wall Street, where numerous celebrities are said to be attending.
Born in 1978 in East Germany, Castello currently lives between New York and Switzerland, and is known largely for his sculptures and paintings partly inspired by artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. Castello’s previous works lean heavily on imagery from pop and consumer culture.
His cube can, in some respects, be compared to Damien Hirst’s infamous diamond encrusted skull, a memento mori that is also a commentary on art’s endless entanglement in money and capital, or Piero Manzoni’s tongue-in-cheek provocation Artist’s Shit (1961), a tin can containing the artist’s feces which he sold for its weight in gold.
But after its one-day exhibition, where will The Castello CUBE go next? The artist’s team has so far remained tight-lipped about that. One thing is certain, however: Central Park just got a lot more bling.