An LA-based artist made $50,000 over the weekend selling stacks of cash on Instagram.
Matty Mo, who goes by the moniker “The Most Famous Artist,” is known for repurposing old paintings and murals. The 30-year-old sells most of his artwork for around $1,000 apiece, all mostly on Instagram. Last year alone, he sold six-figures’ worth of art.
Every one of Mo’s pieces is aimed at going viral on social media. He says that his “Selfie Wall” in Venice, California, has been his most successful so far and claims that it’s the most Instagrammed mural ever.
For his latest project, Mo put together 10 art pieces for sale titled “One Hundred Thousand Dollars.” Each piece resembles a stack of a thousand $1,000 bills, however, only the $100 bills on the top and bottom of the stacks are visible so the true monetary value is a mystery.
“I went to the bank to get the bills,” he told NextShark. “You can only take out $10,000 at a time, so I had to make multiple trips to the bank, and I’ll leave it at that.”
Mo was inspired to create the project when he read last week that rapper Bow Wow had been called out by stock trader Timothy Sykes for using one of his photos of money on Instagram.
“I thought to myself that there’s a piece of art that could be created out of this story,” Mo said. “So Bow Wow and Sykes were ultimately the source material for this particular piece”
Each stack went for $5,000 and the first piece was sold within 20 minutes after Mo listed it on Instagram. Within five hours, eight of the pieces had sold and the last two sold overnight.
Mo will be hand-delivering each stack to the buyers and will include a signed certificate of authenticity that includes 1,000 unique serial numbers for each dollar bill used to create the artwork.
While buyers can look through the stacks of cash to count their true monetary value, there’s a seal in each piece that keeps all the bills together. If the seal on a stack is broken, Mo says it will become an illegitimate art object.
Prior to becoming an artist, Mo was a successful entrepreneur with an expertise in developing marketing products. He was a co-founder of Sharethrough, a leading native ads platform which has raised $28 million in funding. His stake in that company allowed him to become an angel investor in multiple tech startups. Mo says his most successful investment was in Wildfire, a startup that reportedly sold for $350 million to Google in 2012.
In 2013, Mo’s last startup, AlphaBoost, was in the process of being acquired when something happened that effectively ended his career as a tech entrepreneur and completely destroyed his startup. His friend at the time had filmed him drunk and naked on the beach during a vacation getaway in India.
“A Gawker writer found that video and published it and effectively ruined my tech career and my company,” Mo said. “That left me in a place of feeling no direction or career. Out of the rubble, I discovered art as an opportunity to rebuild myself.”
With his startup failed and most of his wealth tied up in stocks in other startups, Mo was cash poor, but the nude video incident proved to have a silver lining because it inspired him to become an artist.
“I found that being an artist gives you so much freedom from scrutiny,” he said. “If you’re a CEO of a company and you get drunk or tweet something stupid, people freak out. But if you’re a CEO of an art brand, you can pretty much do whatever the fuck you want.”
Mo has allegedly even received a letter from acclaimed street artist Banksy.
“During Banksy’s residency in New York towards the end of 2013, a letter appeared in my mailbox and I wrote a blog post about it and that blog post went viral,” Mo explained. “I had thousands of people emailing me asking me if they could come to the dinner from Banksy.”
Being able to tell a story through art is one of Mo’s talents, and when asked how to craft a story, he uses actor Charlie Sheen as an example:
“We don’t actually know how crazy Charlie Sheen is when he wakes up in the morning but the media is playing it like he’s a crazy and polarizing person. And he is actually feeding the media those types of stories either strategically or unintentionally but it’s working.”
“Something has to be very polarizing in today’s media landscape in order to resonate. It doesn’t mean it has to be offensive, but it has to evoke thought from at least two sides of the spectrum: the believers and nonbelievers, the rich and the poor, the Republicans and Democrats. This is a paradigm that the world and the media are used to. As long as you can construct a story that fits that paradigm, it will be able to spread.”
Mo says he hopes that his art will inspire other artists to effectively use social media to market their brands in a way that will earn them a decent living the way he has.