A roaming art experiment called “Eat The Rich” is giving its customers the chance to consume their favorite or most-reviled billionaires in popsicle form.
For three days, the art collective MSCHF, a play on the word “mischief,” is turning five of the planet’s wealthiest men—Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Ma, and Bill Gates—into icy treats, so that the ordinary person can “bite Bezos,” “munch Musk,” “suck Zuck,” “snack on Jack,” and “gobble Gates.” The popsicles make literal a phrase reportedly coined by the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1793, who wrote: “When the people shall have no more to eat, they will eat the rich.”
Quartz went to MSCHF’s first stop, near Columbus Circle in New York City, to check out the scene. The popsicle truck planned to spend Monday (July 11) there before moving to McCarren Park and Washington Square Park on consecutive days. Three locations across Los Angeles—Santa Monica, The Grove, and Hollywood Boulevard—will also have their chance on the same days to feast on tech-billionaire treats.
Although seemingly anti-capitalist in sentiment, the project is capitalist to its core. Each popsicle sells for $10, double the price of an average ice pop.
Among the first in line were a pair of friends who’d made the journey from New Jersey to be there. “Elon is just a genius,” one of them said. “We’re gonna be in space soon because of him, so he definitely needs to get eaten.” Consuming Musk was, for him, not a subversive statement against late capitalism but a sign of support. “Oh, he’s definitely a good guy,” he said. Then he paused and backtracked: “I never met him so I could be wrong.”
On the commute over, the friends had tried to figure out which plutocrat would appreciate the MSCHF concept. They decided that Musk would probably eat his own popsicle, and Zuckerberg probably wouldn’t.
“They’re not great people,” a customer behind them, named Maya, readily acknowledged, “but for me it’s an experience. I love this type of thing. I think this is really cute.”
Another woman, Carolyn, was getting ready to bite into Bezos. “I could really take a bite out of all of them easily,” she said. “I don’t think anybody in the whole world should be a billionaire.” Bezos was offensive because he was exploitative and greedy, she said. “He’s taking over all business, and small businesses can’t survive anymore.”
The mixed reactions didn’t surprise Daniel Greenberg, a co-founder of MSCHF. The Brooklyn-based collective is best known for getting sued by Nike after they teamed up with with the rapper Lil Nas X and modified 666 pairs of Nikes to include a drop of blood in each, calling them Satan Shoes. “I think every MSCHF output has multiple layers to it,” he said, “so this is no different, where it will appeal to multiple people. Some might love Musk and some might hate him, but they both still want the popsicle.” It felt like a commentary on the overall state of consumer culture. Love or hate these billionaires, we’re all still enmeshed in their web of tech-driven profiteering.
One man, Chris, approached the staff and asked if he could buy all their remaining popsicles; he was asking for a friend, he said. (The truck started the day with 1,000 popsicles.) The MSCHF staff made some calls to check. While he waited, Chris whipped out his phone to show the live price of Tesla stock and revealed he was shorting it. Then the answer from MSCHF came back: “No, they can’t do that.”
Making do with just one popsicle instead, Chris said his friend, who wanted the whole haul, was a sneaker reseller. What was his friend going to do with all those popsicles? Keep them as forever-frozen collectibles or sell them at a mark up?
“Nah, I don’t think so. He likes ice cream,” said Chris.
One person, however, did not want MSCHF’s popsicles at all. A man who ran an ice-cream truck parked across the road walked over to complain to MSCHF. The “Eat The Rich” popsicles were stealing business from him, he said. This was his livelihood, and he needed to make money. The truck had to go. After some negotiating, MSCHF obliged—not something tech billionaires do often. The truck rumbled off in search of a new spot.