137 million Americans are struggling with medical debt – that is more than one-third of Americans. In Medical Bill Art, MSCHF’s latest work, they used the art market in order to pay off and absolve three pieces of medical debt, totalling $73,360.36.
To explain a little bit more about the process:
1 They sourced Americans with medical debt via a magazine ad.
2 After finding three people, they took their bills and transformed them into an oil painting on canvas – you can see photos from the gallery here.
3 The work is then priced equivalent to the face value of the original medical bill and sold via the art market (in this case Otis). The money from the sale is used in its entirety to pay off the original bill.
“The crux of this project is plugging two markets into each other and having them cancel out: the art market and the debt market. When you make a painting destined for the gallery ecosystem you’re essentially imbuing a flat surface with value; when you incur a bill, that bill is essentially a flat surface imbued with a negative value. If we look at these two types of objects as value vehicles (going in opposite directions) we can merge them to cancel out. That’s what Medical Bill Art does at the point of sale.
The thing about debt is that there are tons of people who will happily buy and sell it – but it doesn’t benefit you, the person with the debt. It’s like personal data, or (in the US) paintings: the resale is completely divorced from the originator. That shared paradigm is part of why it makes sense to see those forms crossover.There’s a well-established history of people pushing the boundaries of what paintings can be. For example, John Baldessari’s paintings that are basically written descriptions of a painting / the function of a painting in a gallery (e.g. John Baldessari, Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell). In this work, the painting IS the bill, and vice versa -I both in terms of literal representation but also economic function.” MSCHF
MSCHF planned to have a gallery showing on the Lower East Side of Manhattan but due to COVI19 it couldn’t happen but the site gives a taste of a live event. medicalbill.art