“Happy Birthday” Art Exhibition

by The Most Famous Artist
Opening 3/3/17 at 6pm — 8pm
Open through 3/14/17
60 Hudson St, New York (160 West Broadway Entrance)
info@themostfamousartist.com for more information


“If an artist is to be a mirror to the world, I am just showing everyone what we look like online”. — Matty Mo, TMFA

Not so long ago The Most Famous Artist was a not-so-famous tech startup founder, that was until he got caught drunk and naked on camera, and that video was posted to social media for everyone to see. The result? His company imploded, and he exiled himself from Silicon Valley.

Somewhere between failure and rebirth, Matty Mo realized today’s art world is as much about distribution and branding as it is about classical technique. With a series of creatively conjured projects that trolled the art establishment, he amassed over 154,000 followers as @TheMostFamousArtist on Instagram.

You’ve probably seen TMFA’s work somewhere in your newsfeed. He has been associated with many newsworthy artist stunts like the Hollyweed Sign on New Years Day, and most recently, he was seen carrying the Oscar statue to and from its installation on Hollywood Blvd as part of an anonymous artist called Plastic Jesus’ annual art-driven commentary on the movie business. TMFA is not always front and center, instead allowing the work to speak for itself as Vice, Buzzfeed, EliteDaily, and another news sites republish his collective’s art projects.

This week he is off to NYC to exhibit something new called Happy Birthday. TMFA asked his fans to send him photographic birthday gifts to his Snapchat account. Now these photos, some naked and embellished with emoji, will be displayed in a pop-up gallery space in TriBeCa. The series raises questions about the legality of profiting off the uncompensated, voluntary nudity of others. Richard Prince’s 2015 exhibit only scratched the surface of Internet-appropriated art since he ripped his images off of the public web, while TMFA’s subjects are complicit in the robbery of their own likenesses.

“You can help but wonder if Snapchat a safe place…”

With Snapchat’s forthcoming IPO, the work begs the question; does capitalism care about right and wrong?

Is it okay to send a nude image to a friend? How about a stranger? Has the moral fiber of America eroded past recognition as a result of quick digital fixes? Is that okay? Is it beneficial to humanity to let go of shame?

And, how does the acceptability of a seemingly harmless image on an ephemeral digital platform change once that image been made analog and introduced to the public permanently?

Those are all questions, Matty Mo, a 31-year-old Los Angeles based American conceptual artist and entrepreneur wants the world to ask.

In 2007, Mo was attending Stanford University when he cofounded his first technology startup, Sharethrough, with his classmates. Mo left Sharethrough in 2009 to travel the world and start and invest in other tech startups.

In 2013, his art career began after a leaked video of him stumbling around drunk and naked on a beach in India while CEO of a company became a widely publicized social media disaster. The events forced him to shut down his advertising technology company and re-evaluate his position in society. He knew he didn’t want to be a CEO, but he didn’t exactly know that art was his path either.

“Turn it off, I’m getting naked.”

Those were the last words uttered before he became The Most Famous Artist. It was a death of one career, and a rebirth into another career as an artist.

A birthday of sorts.

A naked moment captured and shared that changed his life forever. That experience brought shame, but it also brought freedom to fully dissolve preconceived notions of identity and start fresh.

Very much an art world outsider, TMFA has built an art career independent of the art institution. He is not formally trained, nor does a gallery represent him. In fact, he often tells interviewers that he doesn’t even know how to paint. But that hasn’t stopped him from selling hundreds of paintings directly to collectors, paint massive murals, and break the internet with his group’s art projects.

Around this time last year, TMFA made news when he dragged a bag filled with a million dollars of cash around a New York art fair. He filmed galleries’ reactions to his bag of cash, showing just how money-centric the art world has become. 8.8 million views later, that stunt proved how in tune TMFA is with sharable cultural.

“It’s an artist’s role to use the tools of our time to tell the stories of our time. And the Internet and our use of it is the story of our time.”

The part about not knowing how to painting isn’t entirely true. Some of the most photogenic murals in Los Angeles bare his name, like the Polka Dot Wall at the Springs in DTLA. He insists that whether or not he actually picks up a brush or knows how to paint is irrelevant. It is the concept of the artwork that matters to him. And his concept for his mural practice is to create walls celebrities and influencers want to take photos in front of to share on social media. Why? So he gets more followers of course. There is only one way to become The Most Famous Artist, and it starts with making sure people are paying attention by all means necessary.

TMFA has learned that not all attention has to be positive to be effective.

Since 2014, TMFA has been buying orphaned paintings at the Long Beach and Rose Bowl flea markets in Los Angeles. He transports the objects to the 3,000 sqft artist co-working space he runs in downtown Los Angeles where they are transformed, over- painted with contemporary themes, or filters as he calls them, and signed “The Most Famous Artist” on the reverse, instantly making the works 10x more valuable.

“I see it as a metaphor for what we do with filters on our Instagram and Snapchat images every day. We apply filters to the mundane to enhance likability.”

To get a rise from the fine art world, TMFA deliberately steals ideas. His themes are usually appropriated from other artists. He stole the dipped painting concept from Oliver Jeffers. He stole the TV Bar series from Chad Wys. He stole the words on landscapes from Wayne White. And he stole his attitude, aspirations, and business savvy from a combination of Banksy, Warhol, and Hirst.

He says his artwork is a reaction to the Internet. “It’s one big Xerox machine. Nothing is original anymore. When everything has been done, originality comes in repackaging old ideas, and in repackaging, you’re a creating something new.”

The Most Famous Artist was started for the Internet and because of the Internet. Had the video of Matty Mo stumbling naked and drunk not been shared across social media, The Most Famous Artist might never exist.

When I decided to become TMFA, I Googled “Who is The Most Famous Artist?”

To my surprise, many artists have been described as the most famous artist, but no one was TMFA, the proper noun. So I bought the domain, registered the Instagram handle, and that was the start.”

That was 2014, and since then the story has only got more interesting. This week at 60 Hudson St. (W. Broadway entrance) TMFA will be opening to the public an exhibition of 42 printed images screen grabbed from his Snapchat direct messages.

Last July, during his birthday, TMFA asked his fans to send him images. His ask was simple: submissions must be from people older than 18, they must not include a face or recognizable features, and they must include “Happy Birthday #TheMostFamousArtist” somewhere in the image.

“I probably received 500 images. About 400 of those submissions broke my rules, and I had to remove them from the collection. I was trying to protect myself from potential legal pitfalls; although I am not entirely sure what I am doing is legal. But hey, if Snapchat can monetize our nudes and go public, why can’t an artist make a name for himself with that same content?”