The Monet of Money Paints Himself into a Corner
Fast-buck artist Stephen Boggs knows how to make his mark, but it has landed him in a pound of trouble. Boggs, a New Jersey-born painter who lives in London, has gotten himself on the bad side of the Bank of England. The Bank is taking Boggs to court because he likes to pay his bills not with money, but with his instant pen-and-ink sketches of money.
No Toulouse-change-Lautrec, Boggs began drawing his salary in 1984 in a restaurant in Chicago. "I was having some coffee and a doughnut," he reports, "and I drew a dollar bill on my napkin. The waitress wanted it so badly that I said, 'I'll pay you with it.' As I was leaving, she said, 'Here's your change.' It was 10 cents."
Since then the 32-year-old artist has been "making" money all over the United States and Europe. He has paid for taxis, meals, clothing and air travel. The bank notes are drawn on one side of paper and signed by Boggs, often with a title such as "Producer of Wealth," next to his name. Occasionally he will write "Crazy Cash" somewhere on the note. The artist always gives people a choice. "I offer them money or a work of art," he says. Boggs has done about 300 such works of art, which take anywhere from an hour to a week to draw.
None of this amuses the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, as the staid Bank of England is known. Boggs has been told that his lunch-counter feats are counterfeits and that the Bank has the right to confiscate any of his "bills" and also to prosecute anyone who owns one of his pieces. His case comes to trial in April.
Sterling fellow that he is, Boggs isn't worried by this threatened legal tenderizing. Says the artist, "I think they'll find it difficult to prosecute me over a one-pound note that's three feet high and five feet wide."
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