This ATM is spitting out social commentary along with cold, hard cash.
An installation by the Brooklyn art collective MSCHF stole the show at this year’s Art Basel Miami. The art piece, dubbed “ATM Leaderboard,” was a functioning ATM that posted a user’s picture and their bank-account balance on a big screen for all to see after someone swiped or tapped their card to withdraw money. It then ranked their balance against those of the ATM’s other users in a “high score” list inspired by old-school arcade games.
MSCHF is known for trolling the rich and making edgy art and fashion pieces designed to go viral. For example, the art collective created imitation Birkenstock sandals (which it called “Birkinstocks”) that were made by destroying Hermès Birkin bags that had originally cost tens of thousands of dollars, and then selling the “Birkinstock” sandals for $34,000 to $76,000.
So the idea behind the “ATM Leaderboard” was to showcase how some people are driven to flex their cash on hand. ” ‘ATM Leaderboard’ is an extremely literal distillation of wealth-flaunting impulses,” Daniel Greenberg, co-founder of MSCHF, told CNN. “From its conception, we had mentally earmarked this work for a location like Miami Basel, a place where there is a dense concentration of people renting Lamborghinis and wearing Rolexes.”
And many Art Basel guests were ready to play the game. Musical artist and DJ Diplo went viral after tweeting a “high score” of more than $3 million in his bank account, declaring on Twitter that he had “just won Art Basel.”
But he was later bumped by a user boasting $9.5 million in a bank account, which was the top score on the final day of Art Basel Miami last weekend.
And the art piece wasn’t just counting cash; it also collected it, as “ATM Leaderboard” sold for $75,000 to a South Florida collector, according to a local news report.
The ATM attracted much attention on Twitter and Instagram as social-media users shared their amusement (and disgust) over how willing these Art Basel guests were to share their bank-account balances.
But many observers also wondered why anybody would have so much cash in a checking or savings account, which typically yield extremely low interest.
“Given how inflation negatively affects the value of cash, I don’t think it’s a good idea to have lots of it saved up without being invested,” accredited financial counselor Ana Gonzalez Ribeiro told MarketWatch. “You also want to keep it in tax-sheltered investment vehicles in order to reduce income-tax liabilities legally. Examples of these include qualified retirement plans like a 401(k), tax-exempt municipal bonds, annuities and real-estate investments.”
Caleb Pepperday, a wealth adviser at JFS Wealth Advisors, said that people may also have larger than advised balances in their bank accounts temporarily if they’re about to make a big purchase. “If you plan to buy a house in the next 12 months it may make sense to keep enough cash liquid for a down payment, closing costs, furniture, etc.,” he said.
It’s likely that Diplo and the person who had $9.5 million in a bank account are sitting on more cash than the six months’ worth of emergency funds on hand that many financial advisers and experts recommend.
MarketWatch’s Alessandra Malito earlier this year detailed some of the best ways to store cash.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation protects consumer deposits in checking, savings and other cash accounts at banks up to $250,000 per account, or $500,000 for joint accounts. So this means that any account where a person keeps more than $250,000 in cash at a single bank runs the risk of losing any funds exceeding the $250,000 threshold in the event of a bank failure — although it should be noted that bank failures are rare, as the FDIC reminds.
The FDIC was created after the Great Depression in 1933, and President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010 increasing FDIC deposit insurance from $100,000 to $250,000.
That only made a small dent in the funds that Diplo and other Art Basel ATM users are leaving un–federally protected in their accounts.