‘Da Vinci of Debt’ is a corporate artwork that features 2600 real university diplomas and is touted as “the most expensive piece of art in the world”.
Beverage giant Anheuser-Busch’s Natural Light Beer is behind a cunning publicity stunt which features 2600 real, physical university diplomas sent in by people all around the United States. The diplomas are presented to the public at Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall in New York City, suspended from the ceiling in a helix pattern.
The beer company says the design “illustrates both the scale of the crippling debt crisis while also alluding to the chaotic impact college debt creates for those who are burdened by it. “
According to Natural Light, “the value [of Da Vinci of Debt] is derived from the average total cost of a four-year college education. The result is a piece of art valued at $470 million dollars, besting the most expensive piece of art ever sold at public auction.”
Adweek comments that “coming in at $470 million total, 'Da Vinci of Debt,' is worth more than the most expensive piece of artwork ever sold at a public auction—Salvator Mundi, a 600-year-old Leonardo Da Vinci painting that went for $450 million in 2017.”
PR Newswire compares Da Vinci of Debt to past hits of the art market, saying “Only in the art world can a single banana sell for $120,000 and an artist's used bed sheets go for $150,000. While other artworks like these are valued arbitrarily, the value of Da Vinci of Debt is derived from the average total cost of a four-year college education.” Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s duct taped banana on a wall was a big source of controversy when it was unveiled, as were British artist Tracy Emin’s bed sheets.
Speaking to PRNewswire, Daniel Blake, Vice President of Value Brands at Anheuser-Busch comments "The art world is filled with absurd price tags that most people find impossible to justify.”
He continues by saying: "That's what made it the perfect medium for this campaign. It's a very fitting analogy for the outrageous cost of attending a typical four-year college. Through Da Vinci of Debt, we hope to inspire action around the college debt crisis and drive more fans to enter for a chance to have the Natty College Debt Relief Program pay down their student loans."
Using conceptual art to publicise its Natty College Debt Relief Program, the beer company hopes more people will apply to its grant programme. It invites applicants on its webpage: “College should be filled with fun, not debt. So, we are awarding $1 million worth of grants to help you pay down your student loans. There will be 25 total recipients and video submissions [showing us what inspired you to go to college] will be accepted until March 21, 2021.”
Da Vinci of Debt was on display at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal from January 14 through January 16, 2021. It can be viewed virtually over Snapchat or on video as well.