John Baldessari, the Los Angeles-based conceptual artist who, by all accounts, dominated the New York art world in 2010, is back in a big way, advertising his funny, tongue-in-cheek wares with a brand new work on the High Line billboard at 18th Street and Tenth Avenue.
The new piece, “The First $100,000 I Ever Made” (2011), was unveiled today by the High Line takes up the entire 25-by-75 foot billboard. It will be on view there through December 30th, and will be succeeded by two more new works commissioned for the High Line Billboard program.
The image depicts an American $100,000 bill, a little-known denomination of which 42,000 were printed between 1934 and 1935. They were never circulated among the general population, and were eventually recalled in the 1960s. Most were destroyed, but a few have been preserved. The $100,000 bill is the largest denomination ever printed by the United States, and features the portrait of Woodrow Wilson.
Cecilia Alemani, Curator and Director of High Line Art at Friends of the High Line, who commissioned the work from Baldessari, tells the High Line Blog:
One hundred thousand dollars in 1934 would be worth $1,635,664.18 today. All 42,000 notes would fit in four standard 4-inch deep briefcases and would be worth $4.2 billion in 1934 dollars, or around $68.7 billion in today’s dollars.
No word yet about who the two other artists being commissioned to create works for the High Line Billboard program are, nor about the fate of Baldessari’s giant $100k bill once it comes down—although, if ever sold, it’s sure to fetch a higher price than the denomination it depicts.