An artist collective turned the medical bills of three Americans into paintings, then sold them to clear a $73,000 debt
A collective of artists made paintings from the medical bills of several Americans, then sold them to erase their combined debt of $73,360.
MSCHFthe Brooklyn-based group of artists and designers who previously cut out a Damien Hirst print and sold the piecespainstakingly recreated the medical bills of three people as large-scale paintings, down to every line item, such as $4940.25 for a CT scan and $116 for a urinalysis.
Each work was then sold at a price equal to the amount of each person’s debt. The profits are entirely donated to the owners of the medical bills.
“The process of creating art in the gallery ecosystem is the process of creating value,” said the the project description reads. “By turning a bill into an array, MSCHF places two equal and opposite monetary forces, thus canceling the bill.”
In typical MSCHF fashion, the artwork oscillates between petty pasquinade and clever institutional critique. In this case, that balance is struck between a sort of Robin Hood benevolence and a satire of the industrial art shopping complex.
“In our mind, it’s a combination of both,” Kevin Wiesner of MSCHF told Artnet News. “The vehicle is art, the public act is activism, and debt relief is direct action. This is not so much a send-off from the gallery system as a simple recognition that the gallery-collector pipeline is what it is: a sales funnel. »
“We don’t necessarily criticize that,” he continues, “but we certainly acknowledge it, and then we put it to work for us. MSCHF’s practice as an arts group is truly rooted in identifying and operating systems in unorthodox ways. »
Earlier this year, the band placed an ad in their eponymous magazine looking for Americans with excessive medical debt. The response was substantial, Wiesner says, noting that given the makeup of MSCHF’s audience, many submissions came from high school and college students. “Honestly, I felt like I was punched in the stomach for reading our emails,” he says.
After prioritizing respondents in debt due to accident or illness, the group randomly selected three bills.
The resulting paintings were intended for display in a gallery on New York’s Lower East Side – an effort to situate the project within the same system it ridicules. But the lockdown prevented that. For now, the works are currently installed in an exhibition space owned by Otis, an art investment platform that is not currently open to the public.
In addition to the Hirst project, which brought in more than $300,000, the collective has already sold at auction a laptop infected with half a dozen of the world’s most dangerous computer viruses. It sold for $1.3 million.
To follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay one step ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to receive breaking news, revealing interviews and incisive reviews that move the conversation forward.