• Jonathan Shiek

The Most Expensive Art Piece In The World Is Not What You Think

Attached to a high ceiling, 2,600 authentic diplomas hang suspended in a helix pattern. Using an intricate network of cables, the cascading artwork is The Da Vinci Of Debt, an art installation by American brewing company Anheuser-Busch’s Natural Light.

To illustrate the scale of the crippling debt crisis and the chaotic impact college debt creates for the burdened, the beer company commissioned the vertiginous sculpture by asking college graduates through social media to rent them their diplomas for $100. In response, 2,600 physical university diplomas were sent in by people from all around the United States. 

In the USA, a four-year diploma would roughly cost a little over 180,000 each. Collectively, 2,600 Diplomas would total to a cost of 470 million, just 20 million over the most expensive painting ever sold at public auction: Leonardo da Vinci’s 600-year-old Salvador Mundi

Credit: NY Times

By unveiling the installation as the most expensive piece of art in the world, Natural Light brought together the overall cost for the number of diplomas not out of sheer coincidence but with clear intentions. 

As Daniel Blake, VP of marketing for the company has said, “The art world is filled with absurd price tags that most people find impossible to justify. 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 the Da Vinci of Debt, Natural Light is hoping to inspire action around the college debt crisis and drive American fans to enter for a chance to have the Natty College Debt Relief Program pay down their student loans.

As stated, “Fans can tell Natty what inspired them to go to college for a chance to have Natty pay down their debt. Natty Light will be accepting entries using #NattyStories and #Contest from Jan 11 through March 21, 2021. Full contest rules and regulations can be found at” A total of 25 winners will be chosen.

The exhibition, which ran from January 14, 2021, through January 16, 2021, in a 6,000 square foot space at Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall, is still available via a digital presentation on Natural Light’s website. The site also gives you a chance to explore the exhibit through an AR lens on Snapchat.


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