The best con men I’d like to learn from would be the ones from movies. The Hollywood romanticism takes away from the harsh reality of con men being scammers, liars and assholes. Danny Ocean from Ocean’s Eleven (2001) isn’t just a criminal. He’s charming, persuasive, nonchalant and confident in his skills of stealth and trickery. In the TV show The Blacklist, character Raymond Reddington holds an air of power and intimidation that sways people into doing his deeds. Mobsters in films like Goodfellas or The Godfather have a sense of honor towards their family and culture. They stick up for one another and boast their pride. Sometimes I just want to be these characters.
To take a look at the faces, characters, and personalities behind the film industry’s blockbuster heists, I designed a one day pop-up shop event called Masterminds: A Con Shop, where visitors can explore their own criminality and be rewarded for their misbehavior with gold and diamond pins relating to a scale of badassery. Visitors were invited to become anonymous under a face mask of a movie star criminal, and brag about a time they were proud of misbehaving. On March 14th, 2016, I invited the public to visit my pop-up shop at the Lazy Susan Gallery in the Lower East Side / Chinatown district of Manhattan. It was designed as a store for trying out the identities of Hollywood heist crews, most notably from Ocean’s Eleven, The Italian Job and Fast Five. I chose to host the event in Chinatown because of its association with counterfeit goods and piracy. I ended up collecting stories of spilled-about experiences in petty thefts, lies and trickery.