Artist Mister E is changing the way we view cash — one brightly colored Ben Franklin at a time.
Mister E is showcasing his iconic "Benny Jr." bills at SCOPE Miami Beach.
It’s been three years since I interviewed Mister E for Ocean Drive’s 2016 December issue. The artist has been quite busy since then. His colorful “Benny Jr.” bills have appeared in music videos with rap stars like Kendrick Lamar, Rich the Kid and Lil Wayne. He’s put on two sold-out Art Basel shows. (He skipped Basel last year to attend a private party at the White House and fly his money on Marine One with the president.) He’s done three collabs with Lamborghini and his works line the halls in the New York Stock Exchange. But today, E is in his 10,000-square-foot Delray Beach studio, finishing a painting to be auctioned off at the 25th annual Miami Make-A-Wish Ball the following weekend. But first, he needs to run an errand. “Get in the car,” he says. “We’re going to buy resin.”
E painting his signature "100" sculpture.
We hop into his 1965 black Shelby Cobra decorated with his signature “100s.” People gawk as we pull into the parking lot. E is unfazed. “It’s cool that I can create money out of nothing and translate that into U.S. dollars that help people,” he tells me. “I did a pink $100 bill in 2014 and gave it to a breast cancer foundation. I love working with charities. It’s gratifying.”
Within 20 minutes, we’re back at his studio. E applies the resin and starts torching the painting to a shiny perfection while we chat. “I started painting currency to get people’s attention and to bring money to the center of the discussion,” he says. “My view on money is the American dream—anything is possible. Anyone can create value in this country and this world. But money is not the end goal.”
The "Benny Jr."
The painting is finished, and as it dries, I ask him what’s next. “An artist can be anyone with a vision and ideas that span across a lot of different industries,” he explains. “I have a background in construction and architecture. What if you have an artist design your home? I want to build and design different homes. I want to have Mister E homes.”
When I ask him about his ultimate goal, his answer is simple: “To be authentic. The concept of being 100 sounds corny at first. But it’s probably the greatest principle to live your life by, right? Just be you.”
E’s doing just that, and then some. That weekend, his painting was auctioned off for $27,000 that will directly benefit the children of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. During a brief follow-up call, I ask him how it feels to make such a positive difference. His answer? “100.”
See Mister E's show at SCOPE Miami Beach, today through Dec. 8.
Photography by: Eva-Maria Guggenberger; "Benny Jr." photos courtesy of Mister E Art