Beyond the padlock's practical use as a reassurance measure (warding off pesky bike thieves and keeping your clothes safe in a gym locker), this timeless tool has recently secured the attention of the art world. In part with the exhibit Take Me (I'm Yours), currently on display at the Monnaie de Paris, the Vienna-based publication group saxpublishers has supplied the Monnaie's neighboring secondhand with a line of padlocks for sale, engraved with images by Olga Balema, Verena Dengler, Lena Henke, Benjamin Hirte, Yngve Holen, Lisa Holzer, Chadwick Rantanen, and Ben Schumacher.
Unlike your everyday padlocks, these artworks reflect uniqueness through the artists' original decals. Designs vary from the regal (a winged lion) to the offbeat (the phrase "Helicopter's Girlfriend"), and the bizarre (a digestive tract).
"The idea then actually came through this very controversial aspect: Making something completely random and ephemeral (you buy it, you hang it and then you take a photo. Everyone is just happy with the thought of having marked the territory) to something very particular and special," saxpublishers' founder Felix Gaudlitz told The Creators Project via email.
Immediately the locks recall the bouquinistes culture, the iconic booksellers located near the Seine River in Paris. In addition their shops' specialized genre of books, bouquinistes often sell cheap padlocks to tourists that are hung on bridges, typically symbolizing a couple's everlasting love (they would throw the keys in the river). This tradition has infuriated several bouquinistes in the past, including the bookshop's "French intellectual" bouquiniste Pascal Corseaux. saxpublishers' locks, however, opened the door to new perspectives.
"Through the aspect of art, our Bouquiniste Pascal is very happy to have them now, while he would never even think of selling regular padlocks," Gaudlitz said.
Officials removed almost all the locks from the Pont des Arts this past June, but this longstanding tradition has continued. Perhaps even a few of saxpublishers' locks will dangle amongst their common folk companions.
"People just want to take something as a memory from a certain place," Gaudlitz said.
Verena Dengler, Bouquinistes, 2015. Laser engraving on brass padlock ca. 8×5 cm. Edition of 10 + 2 AP. EUR 100.00. Courtesy of saxpublishers
Pascal opens the his bookshop Thursday-Sunday "when the weather feels nice." The locks cost €100 (about $112) and can be purchased at the bookshop in Paris during the run of the show.