Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but what about value? It’s been well over a century since Oscar Wilde surmised that we knew the price of everything and the value of nothing, but today, that sentiment seems to hold truer than ever. Meet Matty Mo, an LA-based artist known better by his internet monicker — “The Most Famous Artist.” His latest project involved selling money for money — as art. Believe it or not, he’s made a huge profit selling wads of money on Instagram and Digital Trends spoke with him to find out why.In his latest stunt to become more famous, Mo listed a series of 10 art objects for sale and sold every one of them, netting himself $50,000. Titled “One Hundred Thousand Dollars,” these art pieces resemble a stack of 1,000 $100 bills, but their true monetary value is a mystery. They are likely worth somewhere between $1,000 and their selling price of $5,000. Each had 1,000 U.S. legal tender bills (likely mostly $1 bills), bound in a stack by rubber and currency bands.
He promises that upon delivery, each of the works will be accompanied by a signed certificate of authenticity that includes 1,000 unique serial numbers for each piece of currency used to create the art object.
And what exactly was his profit margin? Did he actually make $50,000? Mo says that the figure actually isn’t important.
“Let’s not focus on the value of the money,” he told Digital Trends when asked about the actual value about the pieces. “That is like analyzing how much material cost went into a painting and scrutinizing the margin the artist is making once the painting sells. It is a well known fact that a painting made from $250 of materials can sell for millions at auction.”
Rather, Mo says, he chose money itself as a medium to provoke thought. “The impact of my art can only be measured by the discussion it stimulates,” he told us. “Good art raises more questions then it answers.”
Mo plans to hand deliver the pieces to the eight buyers (apparently, a couple of these patrons doubled up), all located in New York City and Los Angeles. A bodyguard and camera crew will accompany him when he makes his deliveries.
But more important to Mo than the $50,000 he’s accrued as a result of his project is what he’s learned about human nature. We spoke with Matty Mo to learn more about his thought process.
In terms of his inspiration, Mo notes that he was heavily influenced by the Dada Movement and Duchamp, both known for turning everyday objects into art. “A few days before I created the artwork, I discovered a story about the rapper Bow Wow getting busted for posting an image of around a million dollars cash that didn’t belong to him,” said Mo. “As I thought a bit more deeply about that incident, I began to think of a number of scenarios around perception, wealth, and fame that I wanted my art to explore.”
“The work facilitated a discussion that exposed both the beautiful, thoughtful, intelligent and the ugly, greedy, cynical side of complete strangers connected online,” Mo told us of his experience selling his pieces. “I learnt about speculators, greed, confusion, and rage,” he continued. “I learnt about perception, expectations, and trust. I learnt about the value of art and the value of money. And I learnt about the relationship between the two.”
While Mo says that he had no idea what to expect when he first listed his art online, the results were curious just the same. “I was surprised by how quickly the artwork sold out,” he said. “It is not every day you hear about an artist (or any business for that matter) selling $50,000 of their product in a few hours without any paid marketing, press, or sales agents.”
And one of the questions that should remain unanswered, the artist notes, is how much money he’s delivering to his buyers. “If each piece is preserved as an art object as intended,” he said, “I will be the only one who knows how much money has actually been delivered.”
Staying coy, he added, “I may have made a profit. I may have lost money to facilitate the discussion. I may have made the currency delivered equal the exact acquisition price of $5,000. I believe the viewers and collectors of this work enjoy that mystery. I believe the unknown is what drove such a vibrant discussion of the artwork. I’d hate to spoil that magic.”