markwagner_hamptonshedge markwagner_hamptonshedge

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.

We welcome thoughtful comments on articles, but please read our community guidelines before participating. All comments are moderated and will not immediately appear on the site; your patience is appreciated.

  • 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.