For some bizarre reason, thousands of people want Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to buy and eat the Mona Lisa. To clarify, the Mona Lisa in question is not food, it’s probably the same Mona Lisa you’re thinking of—the painting by Leonardo da Vinci that lives in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Earlier this week, an online petition for Bezos to buy and eat the famous painting suddenly started picking up traction. The funny thing is, the petition isn’t even new, it was started a year ago by a Maryland musician named Kane Powell. Powell told Vice that he and his friends were at an Applebee’s talking about Bezos, given that Amazon was in the news at that time, and said he should buy it “just because he has the money to do it.” It would make a huge statement, he said.
However, Powell and his friends weren’t done. Powell said that not only should Bezos buy the painting, he should also eat it. When asked why he recommended that Bezos eat the painting, Powell gave a simple answer: “I honestly don’t know.”
Back when he created the petition, Powell seemed to have a clearer idea, though.
“Nobody has eaten the mona lisa and we feel jeff bezos needs to take a stand and make this happen,” he wrote.
As crazy as it seems, there are now people talking about what it would actually mean if Bezos bought and ate the Mona Lisa and what could happen to him.
When it comes to what Bezos is most known for, being the richest man in the world, the money appears to be the easy part. It’s not easy to put a price on the painting, although some have tried. Last year, French tech CEO Stéphane Distinguin suggested it could be sold for at least $60 billion, Vice pointed out. The money could be used to take care of losses related to the pandemic, he maintained. It would be more than 100 times the cost of the highest price of sold artwork in history—Salvator Mundi, also by da Vinci—but with a net worth of $200 billion, Bezos could afford it.
The other question, eating it, apparently wouldn’t be that weird in the art world. Amy Adler, an art law expert and professor at the New York University School of Law, told the New York Times that the hypothetical idea of Bezos buying and eating the painting would fall “within the tradition of destruction of art as a way of creating art.” Other artists have carried out this practice in recent decades, Adler noted, such as Robert Rauschenberg, who spent a month erasing a drawing by Willem de Kooning in 1953.
The resulting Erased de Kooning Drawing is part of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.
“The power of Erased de Kooning Drawing derives from the allure of the unseen and from the enigmatic nature of Rauschenberg’s decision to erase a de Kooning. Was it an act of homage, provocation, humor, patricide, destruction, or, as Rauschenberg once suggested, celebration?” the museum writes. “Erased de Kooning Drawing eludes easy answers, its mysterious beginnings leaving it open to a range of present and future interpretations.”
Even though money and perception wouldn’t be a problem, it seems that the biggest challenge would come from actually ingesting the Mona Lisa. Da Vinci painted it on a thin-grained tree plank and covered it with a thick coat of lead white primer, Vice explained. You know, lead, the same substance that can kill you. The artist also used pigments in his palettes made of silica, iron oxide, tin oxide, and bone dust, among others.
Nonetheless, judging by the Louvre’s reaction, there appears to be little chance that Bezos would have the chance to buy the Mona Lisa, much less eat it.
“We have seen the petition but the Musée du Louvre will not comment,” Sophie Grange, the museum’s deputy director of communication, said in a statement.