The color of money: Flashy new art decks the halls of the NYSE

This amazing technicolor c-note — painted by artist Mister E — is one of several money-themed artworks on display on the sixth floor of the New York Stock Exchange as part of “Art and Money.”
Photo by Sydney Pereira

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA

The New York Stock Exchange may not be considered a hot spot of the city’s creative scene, but a new exhibit called “Art and Money” is bringing some color to the capitalist digs.

Gracing the NYSE’s sixth floor hallway heading towards the gold-adorned Big Board Club conference room, three artists’ pieces explore the intersection between art and money. The rightly colored paintings, all representing money in some way, offer a twist on the most iconic representation of American finance and capitalism.

Though the world of finance and art are often thought of as diametrically opposed, one of the artists — who goes by simply “Mister E” — believes otherwise.

“It’s a real chance for people to look at the relationship between art and money in a different way, because I think a lot of people want to pretend like they shouldn’t be talked about in the same conversation,” said Mister E. “And they absolutely go hand in hand.”

The artist knows a thing or two about the relationship between art and money, having made quite a bit of the latter selling the former to celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Now based in Delray Beach, Florida, Mister E grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey, and became a full time artist five years ago after a stint at a marketing company. Eventually, he quit and opened a gallery with his savings. He said he sees money and value as integral to appreciating  his artworks.

“I want people to look at my paintings and get excited that it’s worth more than they paid for it and that it’s going to continue to go up in value,” he said.

His trademark style — large-scale, multi-colored hundred-dollar bills — is meant to tap into the visceral effect that just the sight of money has on people in a consumer society.

“I think that [it’s] the same reason you get joy out of a hundred dollar bill. If you see money on the ground, and you pick it up and you’re excited, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Artist King Saladeen painted this “CEO bear.”
Photo by Sydney Pereira

But Mister E is quick to warn against worshipping cold, hard cash.

“But what I see out of it is don’t really let money control your life,” he said. “You should control your money. And basically, money is a tool.”

Mister E’s technicolor c-notes — as well as a black-and-gold $10 bill — hang alongside pieces from two other artists with equally idiosyncratic names: King Saladeen and JohnBorn.

Two of King Saladeen’s three pieces — a “CEO bear” dressed up in a suit, and a green bear with a dollar sign in its eye — celebrate the icon of stock sell-offs, but he’s also showing off a multi-colored bull — the symbol of a buying market.

JohnBorn has his own collection of abstract, multi-colored bulls on display.

Peter Tuchman, dubbed the most photographed trader on Wall Street, is the curator behind the exhibit.

“The proposal was a little out of the box,” Tuchman admitted. “It was not something I thought they would go for.”

The exhibit opened alongside the news that Stacey Cunningham would be the new president of the NYSE — the first woman to head up the storied exchange in its 226-year history. Traditionally, the building is a “codgy, old place,” said Tuchman, but by adding some modern, colorful artworks from three young artists originating from the Instagram era, Tuchman is hoping to change that a bit.

King Saladeen, who grew up in West Philadelphia but now custom paints McLaren sports cars, agreed that the exchange is an unusual setting for his art, but it could have a positive effect.

“I would’ve never thought that I would be in the stock exchange,” said King Saladeen, also known as Raheem Saladeen Johnson. “It’s not an art gallery. It’s not a center for art. So to have [our pieces] added — it really means something. I think we’re a breath of fresh air in here too,”

Photo by Sydney Pereira
Multicolored $100 bills are a signature design of Mister E.

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