Over the past few weeks, images of a neon green microscopic handbag have swept across the internet, hitting the headlines as it sold for an eye-watering US$63,750 despite a scale comparable to about a speck of dust.
Taking the mini-bag trend to the extreme, the bag measures 657 by 222 by 700 micrometres, which is narrow enough to pass through the eye of a needle and could easily drift away in a light breeze.
Only visible when it's magnified, the teeny-tiny bag is modelled via 3D printing after Louis Vuitton's iconic monogram OnTheGo tote – and it's not an official collaboration, though being sold at the auction house of Pharrell Williams, the new men's creative director of the luxury brand.
So, who is the hatcher behind the spotlight-grabbing handbag? Chances are you have come across many of its wacky and bizarre drops, even if you've never heard of the art collective.
The "Birkenstocks" made out of destroyed Birkin bags
Co-founded in 2016 by former BuzzFeed employee Gabriel Whaley, MSCHF certainly knows a thing or two about going viral. Dubbed the "Banksy for the Internet", the small Brooklyn-based art collective often poked fun at consumerism while stoking it with its meme-worthy product drops that often sold out in a minute.
Such creations include an app that recommends stock buying based on astrology, the “Times Newer Roman” font that makes your essays look longer, and the "Birkenstocks" made out of destroyed Birkin bags, which were flaunted even by American socialite and Instagram icon Kylie Jenner.
While MSCHF has made a successful business with its internet stunts, its employees refused to call it a company. "Being a company kills the magic, we’re trying to do stuff that the world can’t even define," said Whaley in an interview with Business Insider.
And they have indeed stuck to their words – here's what other peculiar projects they have dropped in the past:
1. Big Red Boot
Before they took the tiny-purse trend to the next level, MSCHF had thought a lot bigger for their last drop – The Big Red Boots.
With a quirky cartoon reference that looks to be pried straight off Astro Boy's feet, these monstrous boots have taken the internet and fashion world by storm, selling out within minutes and being spotted everywhere, from TikTok influencers to New York Fashion Week to several A-list stars.
Several stars wearing the Big Red Boots, such as rapper Lil Wayne (left) and Ciara (right)
Explaining the concepts behind the bulbous kicks, MSCHF states on its website that "cartoonishness is an abstraction that frees us from the constraints of reality," and "abstracted forms convey their core idea with an immediacy that a fully realized form cannot."
Despite their impracticality – each weighing 1.59 kg and was pretty much a workout to get them on and off – the fashion crowd was simply obsessed with it, and it was resold on third-party sites for upwards of US$1,500, more than four times its original price of US$350.
For any fans who failed to get their hands on the boots, fret not: the Big Boot saga is not over yet – they are now returning with a charcoal-black makeover, so stay tuned for their official release date.
The upcoming Big Black Boots | Image captured from @javelberlin on Instagram
2. The Jesus Shoes
When it comes to viral cool kicks from MSCHF, there's no going past the Jesus Shoes – the most Googled shoe of 2019.
The design came about at a time when cross-brand collaborations were all over the place, going too far with some unorthodox pairings, such as Arizona Iced Tea and Adidas.
Mocking at how absurd collab culture has gotten, the creative label decided to aim higher, working with one of the most influential figures in history: Jesus Christ.
To do that, they bought normal pairs of white Nike Air Max 97 sneakers off the rack, gave them a religious revamp, and added numerous spiritual elements, with the most significant being the Holy Water.
Evoking the miracle of Jesus walking on water in the Book of Matthew, each shoe was injected with 60cc of water sourced directly from the River Jordan and blessed by a priest in Brooklyn, allowing wearers to walk on water – literally.
Even with a sky-high price tag of US$1,425, the shoes were again sold out within a minute, with a resale price of over US$3,000.
3. The Satan Shoes
Two years after the release of the Jesus Shoes, another customized Air Max 97s was dropped as a follow-up, only this time containing 60cc of ink – and one drop of human blood from six of its team members.
Designed in collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X, the blood-infused shoes were known as the Satan Shoes. Embroidered on each pair are the words "Luke 10:18", a reference to the biblical passage that reads, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
A total of 666 pairs of Satan Shoes were launched. Each pair cost US$1,018, as a nod to the above Bible verse. And they were immediately sold out.
But as the proverb goes, he who sups with the devil should have a long spoon. Not long after their release, MSCHF was sued by Nike for trademark infringement. To settle the lawsuit, MSCHF eventually offered a voluntary buyback, letting customers return their pairs for a full refund.
4. Museum of Forgeries
“I don’t know where the artificial stops and the real starts,” Andy Warhol once said.
While the above Satan Shoes resulted in a lawsuit by Nike, this artistic project would have probably won a seal of approval from its original artist, the pop icon of the post-modern period.
MSCHF | Possibly Real Copy of ‘Fairies’ by Andy Warhol (2021)
In 2021, MSCHF paid US$20,000 for Warhol's early paper sketch Fairies en masse at Hamilton-Selway Fine Art in Los Angeles. Trolling the "capital-A Art World" – which they believed is "far more concerned with authenticity than aesthetics" – the prankster art collective built a custom robot to create 999 exact replicas of Warhol's work, and then mixed them all together at random.
Pay US$250 and buyers will have a 0.1% chance of getting a genuine Warhol – though no one will ever know if they scored the real thing, as any record identifying the original work has been destroyed. With all 1,000 works sold, MSCHF eventually earned US$250,000, yielding an 11.5-times return on the project.
5. Severed Spots
In fact, MSCHF seems to have a thing about spitting in the face of the fine art market.
One of their earliest ground-breaking art drops was the Servered Spots, in which they bought a US$30,484 Damien Hirst Spot Print, cutting it up and selling individual spots for US$480. The remaining canvas – a piece of white paper with 88 holes – was then put up for auction, eventually bringing in US$261,400.
By 'destroying' Hirst's piece, MSCHF garnered an astonishing US$303,640, which is nearly ten times the work's original value.
All the spots cut out from the painting were sold
The remaining canvas, which has the signatures of Damien Hirst and MSCHF, sold for US$261,400.
As for how they came up with this insane idea, MSCHF explained, "We bought a Damien Hirst and the first thing the seller asked us was 'know anybody in Connecticut to ship it to?' for who in their right mind thinks of anything, upon acquiring work by one of the 21st century’s most name-recognizable artists, than to flinch from the waiting blow of New York sales tax?"
Intended as a comment on the hyper-speculative nature of the art market, the work also touches upon fractionalized art ownership, at a time when NFT was all the rage.
6. Medical Bill Art
Another intent to challenge the functionality of fine art, Medical Bill was created in 2020 as a wider commentary on the US healthcare system.
In their May 2020 issue of MSCHF MAG, they placed an ad seeking Americans with excessive medical debt. After randomly selecting three submissions, MSCHF painstakingly copied and hand-painted the invoices on two-metre canvases, down to every line item, such as US$118 for an IV.
The triptych of "bills" was then sold for the total value of the listed medical services, erasing their combined US$73,360.36 worth of debt. Its anonymous buyer sold the work at Phillips New York in 2022, pulling in US$35,280 in return.
Details of the Medical Art Bill
Details of the Medical Art Bill