Artist Ilan Manouach bound together 21,450 pages of the popular Japanese comic “One Piece” to create a sculpture that comments on the commodification of comic books. And, in doing so, he created what is believed to be the longest book ever—so long, in fact, that it is physically impossible to read.
The conceptual art project, called ONEPIECE, sold out within days of its launch earlier this month. Manouach, in collaboration with his Brussels-based nonprofit Echo Chamber and French publisher JBE Books, made 50 signed and numbered copies of the sculpture available for $1,893 (€1,900) each. Each book weighed 37.5 pounds and had a 31.5-inch spine.
Manouach created the artwork to explore the “expanded digital production belt” for comics, which have become high-value items for collectors and investors, according to his website. The fact that no one can read the book is the whole point: Manouach developed ONEPIECE “as an object of pure speculation.”
“Comics are dual objects,” he writes. “They have a use value—for readers—and an exchange value for collectors. Although these two functions are not operating along a clear-cut divide, they sometimes run opposite to each other.”
As Isaiah Colbert writes for Kotaku, the sculpture is “something to look at as you mull over the supply and demand rates of manga from online digital storefronts.”
Though the sculpture prominently bears the words “by Ilan Manouach” on the front, author and artist Eiichiro Oda is actually responsible for creating the serialized manga “One Piece,” which has appeared in the Japanese magazine Shōnen Jump each week since 1997.
The comic follows protagonist Luffy D. Monkey on his adventures as the leader of a group of pirates. By August, “One Piece” had published more than 500 million copies worldwide, breaking the Guinness World Record for the “World’s Most Published Comics Series by a Single Author,” reported Hypebeast’s Joyce Li. With an estimated net worth of around $200 million, Oda is the richest manga creator on record. And his beloved seafaring saga is apparently nearing its end: Oda says the series is in its final stages.
Manouach apparently did not consult Oda or the manga’s publisher on the project. Keita Murano, a spokesman for Shueisha, the Japanese publisher of “One Piece,” tells the Guardian’s David Barnett that the artwork is “not official.”
“We don’t give permission to them,” he says.
An unnamed spokesperson for JBE, the artwork’s publisher, tells the Guardian that since the sculpture is impossible to read, it does not present any copyright issues.
“This piece is about Manouach’s work around ecosystems of comics, here as a sculptor who uses online dissemination as source material, not reading copyrighted content,” the spokesperson adds.