I recently took in a show in Los Angeles that had me delight in doing a bit of a double-take; surprising the eyes is always a refreshing sensation. Walking into Isabelle Cornaro’s exhibition at Hannah Hoffman Gallery, it took a moment or two to register that the paintings were made directly on the walls of the space itself—raising the obvious question of whether they were available for acquisition, and if so, how?

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Hoffman assured me they were indeed for sale. But rather than go home with the actual pieces shown in the gallery, buyers instead acquired the list of paint colours used, and a set of instructions for re-creating the work at home (as well as the responsibility of hiring an art handler to execute the work).

This rang familiar—Cornaro is following in the tradition of much-revered 20th century abstract artist Sol Lewitt, who often sold artworks not as completed objects, but in the form of a didactic guide for how to construct the piece in its destined viewing space.

While this type of hands-off approach by an artist may take a theoretical leap of faith for collectors, for out-of-the-white-box thinkers, chance and risk have their artistry too.

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 Sol Lewitt’s Wall Drawing #289, 1976, from the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Its instructions read: “A six-inch (15cm) grid covering each of the four black walls. White Lines to points on the grid. 1st wall 24 lines from the centre; 2nd wall: 12 lines from the midpoint of each of the sides; 3rd wall: 12 lines from each corner; 4th wall: 24 lines from the centre, 12 lines from the midpoint of each of the sides, 12 lines from each corner.”