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The back of ONEPIECE

ONE PIECE by Ilan Manouach
Courtesy of JBE Books

Artist Ilan Manouach has bound 21,450 pages of the popular Japanese comic “One Piece” together to create a sculpture that comments on the commodification of comics. 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 ONE PIECE, 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 available 50 signed and numbered copies of the sculpture 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 “expanding digital production belt” for comics, which have become valuable objects for collectors and investors, according to his website. The fact that no one can read the book is the whole point: Manouach developed ONE PIECE “as the subject 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 do not operate along a clear divide, they sometimes run counter to each other.”

ONEPIECE pages

The book has a spine of 31.5 inches.

Courtesy of JBE Books

As Isaiah Colbert writes for my boxis the sculpture “something to look at when you think about the supply and demand rates for manga from online digital storefronts.”

Although the sculpture prominently bears the words “by Ilan Manouach” on the front, writer and artist Eiichiro Oda is actually responsible for creating the serialized manga “One Piece”, which has been featured in the Japanese magazine Shonen Jump every week since 1997.

The cartoon follows the protagonist Luffy D. Monkey on his adventures as the leader of a group of pirates. By August, “One Piece” had sold more than 500 million copies worldwide, breaking the Guinness World Record for “World’s Most Published Comic Book 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 of all time. And his beloved seafaring saga is apparently nearing its end: Oda says the series is in its final phase.

The cover of ONEPIECE

The project comments on the commodification of comics.

Courtesy of JBE Books

Manouach apparently did not consult Oda or the manga’s publisher about the project. Keita Murano, a spokesman for Shueisha, the Japanese publisher of “One Piece,” tells GuardianDavid Barnett that the artwork “is not official.”

“We don’t give them permission,” he says.

An unnamed spokesperson for JBE, the artwork’s publisher, says Guardian that since the sculpture is impossible to read, it presents no copyright problems.

“This piece is about Manouach’s work around comics ecosystems, here as a sculptor using online mediums as source material, not reading copyrighted content,” the spokesperson adds.

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