All My Life for Sale

“All My Life for Sale,” is a project that includes a book, an online site and a 2005 museum installation at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York.  In 2000, John D. Freyer decided to sell the entire contents of his apartment on the auction website eBay in an effort to move away from Iowa City, Iowa. His sold possessions numbered more than 600, not including the hundreds he parted with at a subsequent yard sale. Freyer wrote histories for each of his objects, among them his favorite shirt, false teeth and Jesus nightlight, to entice potential online buyers. This became the online performance project known as, which became a national phenomenon among collectors of popular culture and internet enthusiasts alike who competed for a piece of John Freyer’s life.

After tracking his sold possessions, Freyer visited and interviewed as many of the new owners as he could to ascertain what had attracted them to the objects. He maintained an online travelogue at to keep interested participants updated on his cross-country adventures, developed a project Web site,, and released the publication All My Life for Sale (Bloomsbury USA) in 2002.

As a media artist, photographer, storyteller, documentarian and performance artist whose art is predominantly digital and Web-based, Freyer and his work continue to challenge the role traditional museums spaces play in an increasingly Web-based society. To convert the performance project into a museum installation, Freyer e-mailed hundreds of participants worldwide from the project who had purchased his personal belongings on eBay four years prior.  He requested that they loan his former objects to the Everson Museum for an exhibition. A varied selection of fifty objects was reunited for the exhibition, including Freyer’s “Star Wars” sheets, matchbook collection, “Beat Street” album, pink barber shirt, waffle iron, fake dollar bills and a suspect brown towel (the owner was uncertain which of her brown towels had previously belonged to Freyer).

Brian, a buyer from Texas who loaned Freyer’s yellow bowling shirt and an unopened box of taco shells (still shrink-wrapped), was so inspired by his purchases that he launched to sell his own life’s possessions. He questions whether or not Freyer has started a movement, noting that the experience has changed his life regardless.  “I believe John’s exploration of objects and identity challenges people to examine how they live. It made me realize that having less doesn’t make you less of a person. It also inspired me to question what is important in my life.”

Freyer’s possessions also made their way into public institutions where they have been categorized as art objects. His false teeth, an accessory he had long forgotten about until they were rediscovered and tagged for sale in 2000, were loaned to the Everson exhibition by The University of Iowa Museum of Art, where they enjoy a place inside a Plexiglas case in the gallery’s permanent collection installation. The museum also loaned the domain name from their permanent collection installation, the final item Freyer sold. The Museum of Modern Art loaned Freyer’s U.S. Army chair that currently resides in their Library and Archive, his original sales tag still tied to the backrest, as part of the Franklin Furnace Collection. Reports from the staff indicate that despite three reasonably comfortable, ergonomically correct chairs in close proximity, curious visitors often choose to sit on Freyer’s slightly unstable wooden seat.

2011 is the 10th year anniversary of the project.