Alec Monopoly: The Artist Who Turned Rich Uncle Pennybags into a Street Icon
Despite its reputation as a fun board game that many enjoy as children, when it comes down to it, Monopoly is a capitalistic competition. Its mascot, Rich Uncle Pennybags, the plump, top hat-wearing character who hops around toting a cane and piles of money, has inspired the anonymous street artist Alec Monopoly. The popular figure serves as the artist’s insignia, and is his means through which to critique contemporary society’s preoccupation with wealth.
Originally from New York City, Monopoly has recently been posting his works in Los Angeles, utilizing a variety of materials, including spray paint, newspaper, epoxy, varnish, and stencils to adhere the images of Rich Uncle Pennybags and other money-grabbing characters to public spaces and canvases. In Park Place (2014), he raises his hat to the viewer. His figure is stenciled on top of what looks to be a large white monopoly card with the words “Title Deed Park Place” at the top. The entire piece is covered with a glossy epoxy, replicating the look of a card. The congratulatory gesture from Pennybags, along with the embalming of a title deed, might allude to the ways that our society puts money and investments on a pedestal, but it also seems to refer to a game of chance. In SCROOGE DOLLARS (2014) we see another recognizable character, Scrooge McDuck, in ecstasy as he sniffs several dollar bills. Money is, of course, a precious resource worth guarding at all cost for McDuck.
Other Scrooge-like or privileged characters, such as Mr. Burns (2013) and Richie Rich (2013), make their appearances, perhaps as a way to remind us that all of these popular cultural icons wouldn’t exist without our preoccupation with those who have financial power over us. As their painted bodies are overlayed on top of newsprints from the New York Times business section, it doesn’t take much to grasp that the stuff of fiction has also come to pass in real life.