markwagner_hamptonshedge markwagner_hamptonshedge
Ideas/Commentary

Money Matters

As our financial markets continue to meltdown and our currency is in flux (I recently found myself staring blankly at a $14 Whopper at the Zurich International Airport),  Mark Wagner seems to be having the time of his life.

Wagner, a collage artist, has been busy cutting up thousands of U.S. one dollar bills and reshuffling the pieces into fantastic works of art.   The meticulousness of these collages is awe-inspiring.   Just one look and you can see what I am talking about.  Here’s Riddle of the Sphinx:  Click for a high resolution scan.

In one of my personal favorites, Marxism, Wagner scrambles the portrait of George Washington into a portrait of Groucho Marx, a clever reduction of our founding father to the father of Duck Soup.

In Bout,  George Washington is seen in a boxing ring fighting a shadow of himself, which is skillfully constructed by using the shaded parts of a dollar bill.   It’s a fantastic piece, and I’m sure it’s hanging in some investment banker’s living room right now.  Click for a high resolution scan.

I love thinking of Mark Wagner sitting in his studio, destroying money like a shredding factory.  Just the artist, thousands of dollar bills, and a few X-Acto knives.

It reminds me of that guy who discovered that pennies made before 1982 were 95% copper (as opposed to today’s which are 97.5% zinc), so he melted them down and sold the copper and made a fortune.* Of course, the government caught up with him, but there’s something similar going on here.  Our money is worthless -  more so every day – so Wagner cuts it up and turns it into art that sells for $20,000 a piece.  I love it.

Detail, Waiting to Close the Deal

*More on the bizarre worthlessness of our currency: Penny Dreadful from The New Yorker.

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  • Wow. I’ve heard of using banknotes for art before but that is simply amazing. Another awesome post PES.

  • Isn’t the destruction of government currency a federal offense? Just sayin’.

  • Wagner’s work is flat-out awesome.

  • Are you sure it’s real dollars? it seems he could easily color xerox them and get the same exact art.

  • Gillian

    Wow! I’m shocked to see Wagner’s work up here! I was wandering around Chelsea a few weeks ago and found the gallery where these pieces are being exhibited. Great stuff. I’m surprised you didn’t put up one of the mermaid images. I found those particularly impressive.

    Also, to give John Metta some peace of mind, the person sitting in the gallery told me that Wagner’s method is NOT considered a federal offense. The owner explained that since putting up the exhibition, a lot of viewers have asked questions along the line of, “Is this real money?” or “Is he allowed to do this?”

    Thanks for posting this!

  • Katella Gate

    Clever concept, superb execution, and gorgeous results.

    And when you consider the cost of “legitimate” art supplies, this is probably a very cost-effective way to cover a canvas.

  • Anna

    O-o’ thats pretty crazy!

    Must require hours of planning… Can’t just be cutting up a few 10s and then find out it doesn’t fit, huh?

  • Sal

    Destruction of government currency must have been rendered noncriminal during the past eight years, or else certain people would be in prison.

  • Saturnome

    I overlooked this post with all the past events. Amazing work! I love the clothing on the last one. This could totally be animated.