It’s a fanciful thought that probably crosses many people’s minds when they push a shovel into the ground — maybe there’s buried treasure down there. Now a German artist has made that fantasy a reality with a participatory art project on the beaches of Folkestone, Kent, England.
Berlin-based artist Michael Sailstorfer announced at the end of last week that he had hidden £10,000 ($16,462) worth of gold beneath the sand for an art project called “Folkestone Digs.” Thirty gold bars, marked "Made in London," were placed under the sand of a wide expanse of Outer Harbour beach. Some bars are worth £250 ($411) while others are £500 ($823).
The dig began at low tide on Friday when more than 1,000 came out to try their luck at finding free gold. So far at least one family and a group of three friends have struck it rich after finding gold bars.
"My legs went from under me and I started shaking," Kevin Wood -- one of a party of three who found the first bar told the International Business Times. "I put it quietly in my pocket. We left the beach and half way home, we pulled over for a drink."
Grabbing a drink seems like a logical reaction to suddenly striking it rich (or at least richer than before). Also logical is another group’s reaction to finding gold — one family decided not to talk to the media and keep it on the down-low.
Apparently the organizers expected such a range of reactions and that, they explained, is part of the art.
"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," the Triennial curator, Lewis Biggs, told the Guardian.
Also considered part of the work is the way hopeful diggers will transform the beach with large holes. Each day's work will be erased by the incoming tide and then wiped clean for the next day’s hunters.
And, Biggs pointed out to the Guardian, not everyone's toil and sweat will yield reward.
"Some people will get lucky, some people will not get lucky -- and that's life."