Art: Burning Money Like It's Going Out of Style

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on September 15, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

What would you do if you had money to burn? Chances are good that you would pay off bills, splurge on something special, and possibly save a bit. But if you are artist Micah Spear, you literally blowtorch stacks of cash to make a point ... and a dollar.

Spear's collection of destroyed works is called #SealedContents and most notably contains stacks of blasted currencies, which are vacuum sealed in plastic and displayed in frames in his apartment and on his website. The idea is to raise questions about money and value.

Cashes to Ashes:

"Everything is about intention. I'm not destroying money, I'm examining desire and attachment. All money in the world is fake," Spear told Vice.

But the Secret Service may feel otherwise. From the federal government's perspective, the money is quite real.

Destroying dollar bills is a federal offense under Title 18, Section 333, of the United States Code, which says that "whoever mutilates, cuts, disfigures, perforates, unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, Federal Reserve Bank, or Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued, shall be fined not more than $100 or imprisoned not more than six months, or both."

Dust to Dollars

Spear does render stacks of money unfit to be reissued but does not appear concerned about the legal risk. Nor will he say where the cash comes from or how it is that he can afford to explore financial detachment in this manner. He began his own successful design company while still an art student and boasts some pretty powerful clients, so perhaps he really does have an exceptional understanding of capitalism ... or just exceptional access to capital.

Either way, Spear says the idea behind his works is to examine our ties to things. "I'm exploring our blind fixation on money as an object through the act of destruction."

As for his fixation, Spear is not yet in the clear. He is selling destructed dollars starting at $250 dollars a pop.

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