MSCHF - New Now New York Wednesday, September 28, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Painted in 2020, MSCHF’s Medical Bill is a groundbreaking example of the Brookyln-based artist's collective’s intent to challenge the functionality of fine art. The work was the collective’s 30th bi-weekly “drop” from September 2020, a time known by many as peaked by social, emotional, economic and medical instability. Other “drops” by the collective include “The Ultimate Participation Trophy” in collaboration with Tiffany & Co., as well as “Eat the Rich” popsicles from MSCHF ice cream trucks located around New York and Los Angeles this summer. By balancing the significance of form and function, Medical Bill challenges the viewer to think about the intersectionality of fine art and graphic design as well as emotional and market values.

    "MSCHF has absolutely no predictable coherence to its outputs. Like, we're gonna make shoes, we're gonna make paintings. We're working on a video game right now."
    —Kevin Wiesner, MSCHF creative director
    MSCHF sought individuals with medical debt after placing an ad in their May 2020 issue of MSCHF MAG, highlighting the collaborative nature of the collective’s artwork.i After randomly selecting three submissions, MSCHF then copied and hand-painted the invoices to create Medical Bill. The triptych of “bills” was subsequently sold for the total value of the listed medical services, $73,360.36, thereby cancelling the debt they symbolize. In an email to CNN, Daniel Greenberg, head of MSCHF’s strategy and growth, stated that “the American health care system has reached such a point of runaway absurdity that an off-the-wall solution is the only fitting tactic to address it” and that Medical Bill is “a conceptual artwork, not a reliable strategy for debt alleviation."ii MSCHF employs the language and media of fine art to acknowledge the stark reality of the healthcare system. Medical Bill is a highly anticipated, valuable and unique answer to an ongoing nationwide problem.

     

    John Baldessari, What Is Painting, 1968. Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © John Baldessari 1966-68. Courtesy Estate of John Baldessari © 2022.

    Actively engaged in the semiotic tension between the signified and signifier, MSCHF’s Medical Bill recalls the work of many celebrated art historical figures, including John Baldessari. “I think one of the fundamental issues of art is making a selection,” Baldessari says, […] matter-of-factly, in a comment that also attests to his interest in the play of choice and chance in Marcel Duchamp’s work. “Yet he is equally involved with the combination of images and words; in fact, selection and combination are the essential operations of his art. They are fundamental to montage and language too."iii Baldessari’s What Is Painting recalls the self-referential power of text art— word and meaning are different concepts, and the “choice” to represent the two together is the mark of the artist’s craft. Through the careful choice of words to identify a problem deeply rooted in American culture, Medical Bill perpetuates the art historical narrative of de-constructing language through various media, highlighting the ongoing tension between content and expression.


    i Bingo Bob, ed., “BREAD,” MSCHF MAGAZINE, vol. 1, p. 43.
    ii Daniel Greenberg, quoted in Oscar Holland, “Oversized hospital bill paintings sold to pay off medical debts,” CNN, October 5, 2020, online.
    iii Patrick Pardo and Robert Dean, eds., John Baldessari Catalogue Raisonné Volume Two: 1975–1986, New Haven, 2018, p. 1.

    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artists by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, MSCHF Gallery, MSCHF Drop #30: Medical Bill Art, September 2020

    • Literature

      Anna Lovine, “These medical bills were made into oil paintings and sold to pay off the $73,360 debt,” Mashable, September 28, 2020, online (MSCHF Gallery, New York, 2020 installation view illustrated)
      Taylor Dafoe, “An Art Collective Turned Three Americans’ Medical Bills Into Paintings and Then Sold Them to Erase $73,000 Worth of Debt,” Artnet News, September 28, 2020, online (MSCHF Gallery, New York, 2020 installation view illustrated)
      Mark Westall, “NEW YORK BASED MSCHF TURNED MEDICAL BILLS INTO PAINTINGS AND SOLD THEM TO ERASE THEIR DEBT,” FAD Magazine, September 29, 2020, online (MSCHF Gallery, New York, 2020 installation view illustrated)
      Oscar Holland, “Oversized hospital bill paintings sold to pay off medical debts,” CNN, October 5, 2020, online (MSCHF Gallery, New York, 2020 installation view illustrated)

92

Medical Bill

each signed “MSCHF” lower right; dated "2020" on the reverse of the left element
oil on canvas, in 3 parts
each 72 x 56 1/4 in. (182.9 x 142.9 cm)
installation dimensions approximately 72 x 172 3/4 in. (182.9 x 438.8 cm)

Painted in 2020.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for $35,280

Contact Specialist

Avery Semjen
Head of Sale, New Now
212 940 1207
[email protected]

New Now

New York Auction 28 September 2022