T H E C O L O R O F M O N E Y
As the artist behind all those Bennies, Mister E’s mantra “the show must go on” rings more true than ever as his work poses a different kind of value proposition.
With his colorful depictions of cash cropping up everywhere from the flashy music videos of Kendrick Lamar to the New York Stock Exchange to collabs with Lamborghini, artist Mister E is actually not all about the Benjamins. Collected by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Floyd Mayweather, Adam Sandler and Dana White, the artist keeps his birth name private but not his increasingly important message. We checked in with the Delray Beach-based artist for his take on this crazy year.
How has the past year evolved your work or process as an artist?
I knew I needed to do what COVID forced me to do—which I think it forced everyone to do—which was look at what you’re doing. Stop. Pause. You dissect what you were doing and ask maybe there’s a better way to do it. I started working a lot differently when COVID started. And actually, I think it was a good thing. In times of crisis, that’s when true, true creativity is born.
Your work often centers around value perception. Do you think this year has shifted things in terms of values?
You really realize how important the message behind the work is in times like this. I think we can all agree that it’s been a fucking roller coaster. But, I mean, people like roller coasters, right? I think at the end of the day, it’s made me focus more on putting a message in the art that I think people can relate to. And that makes people also look at life the way that I’m looking at it. One thing that we can’t change is to go back in time. And that’s why when people say time is money—because time is much more valuable than money—you can’t make it. I never look backward, because it’s done. You can only look forward to have a positive attitude.
Artist Mister E sitting inside his customized 1965 Shelby Cobra
It’s interesting that your work really focuses so much on value. It seems particularly appropriate this year, when we have all had such value shifts. It’s forced people to really reevaluate their values.
I’m glad you say it like that. Because when I was painting money, I think sometimes the message got distorted or flipped around. People would say to me in interviews, ’Oh, so you’re obviously obsessed with money.’ And I’m like, ‘No, I’m am obsessed with value, and how people perceive the value of different things and what is actually valuable.’ I think COVID has probably made a lot of people think about luxury items, designer items and clothing—and the whole hype culture. I think there’s been a cultural shift in what’s important. COVID might have helped make people realize what’s really important to them in life. And I think material things have gone down and will continue to over the next few years, while people look at life differently.
What is your favorite place in Miami to see art?
Faena—without a doubt, it’s my favorite spot. You walk into that hotel, and you almost think there’s a time machine, like you could be in Miami in the ’60s. The art that they have there is insane. Everything there is art.
What is up next for you?
I think the goal really is to not have any sort of limitations on work that I want to create. I want to basically be able to do bigger and bigger projects.
Mister E at work in his 10,000-square-foot Delray Beach studio in front of a customized Carlo Mollino racing car
"People would say to me in interviews, 'Oh, so you're obviously obsessed with money?' and I'm like, "No, I am obsessed with value, and how people perceive the value of different things and what is actually valuable.'"
Artist Mister E sitting in his studio in front of a 1984 Cadillac Coupe DeVille surrounded by various iterations of his “Bennies” and “100” sculptures.
Photography by: Nick Garcia