A Mischievous Art Basel Installation Turns Personal Wealth Into Video Game

Few people like to point out the paradoxes between art and commerce quite as much as artists themselves. At Art Basel in Miami Beach this week, a piece from the appropriately named Brooklyn group MSCHF found a new and amusing way to investigate this conflict.

A functional ATM puts the cash balance of each user up on a video screen display. It then maintains a ranking, such that the person with the most dough gets the top perch. It’s a lot like playing coin-operated video games, but instead of awarding kudos for blasting asteroids, it’s based on how quickly your wealth management team got you out of crypto.

Here you can see DJ Diplo joining in the fun. After an appearance from Rich Uncle Moneybags a/k/a Mr. Monopoly—surely that falls under “fair use”—you’ll see that he’s got over three mil in his checking account and became the high scorer.

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Daniel Greenberg, a co-founder of MSCHF, told NPR that the work, called ATM Leaderboard, has sold for $75,000. Where and if the object appears in the future is up to the new owner (the name of whom was not disclosed), but the top scorers on the leaderboard will remain after each showing “to encourage people to top previous users.”

Greenberg also called the piece “an extremely literal distillation of wealth-flaunting impulses,” and said that “from its conception, we had mentally earmarked this work for a location like Miami Basel, a place where there is a dense concentration of people renting Lamborghinis and wearing Rolexes.”

Previous notable MSCHF pieces include Spot’s Rampage, in which a Boston Dynamics robotic dog was fitted with a paintball gun, the unlicensed Nike footwear called Satan Shoes made in collaboration with Lil Nas X, and large-scale paintings based off ludicrous hospital bills, which were then sold to pay off the debts of those who donated them. 

ATM Leaderboard (which, again, is a functional ATM) was created in partnership with Perrotin, a gallery with outposts in New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Las Vegas. In 2019 Perrotin brought Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s Comedian to Art Basel, which consisted of a banana duct taped to a wall. Two of the three editions sold for $120,000, but another was yanked down and eaten by Georgian artist David Datuna in an unannounced site-specific performance piece called Hungry Artist

In an interview, Datuna said that he does not really like bananas, but he felt connected with “part of [Maurizio] Cattelan” when the piece eventually exited his body. God bless the world of contemporary art. 

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