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HYPERALLERGIC: We Know Exactly Who Loses at Monopoly of Gentrification

Two artists replaced the game’s iconic locations with a politically charged set of properties and events highlighting the impact of gentrification on Black communities.

By Sarah Rose Sharp | May 5, 2022

B. Robert Moore and Estéban Whiteside, “We Buy Houses, So You Move” from The Monopoly of Gentrification series (2022), mixed media on stretched canvas, 30 x 30 inches (all images courtesy the artists)

Since its introduction to the United States market in 1935, the board game Monopoly has been a handy primer for real estate tycoons. Paradoxically based on the 1903 The Landlord’s Game, created by Elizabeth Magie as a “practical demonstration of the present system of land grabbing, with all its usual outcomes and consequences,” Monopoly took what was intended as a cautionary tale and turned it into a recreational activity for budding capitalists. Through an interminable process of gameplay, you can tell which of your kids is a bleeding-heart liberal (whoever chooses the Scottie Dog game piece) and which is going to be an insufferable Libertarian (the one who refuses to let the game end until they have collected the holdings of every single other player). Family fun!

A collaboration between artists B. Robert Moore and Esteban Whiteside adapts the Monopoly format to talk about one of the contemporary consequences of land-grabbing: gentrification. In their series of drawings Amerikkkan Monopoly Game (The Monopoly of Gentrification), they replace the game’s iconic locations with a politically charged set of properties and events intended to highlight the impact of gentrification on neighborhoods and the historic connection between land ownership and the exploitation of Black people.

The work is highly didactic, recasting Monopoly’s trademark property squares with gentrification’s contributing factors — from the enslavement of African people in the Americas to the incursion of a Whole Foods franchise in the neighborhood, exploitative utility companies, and the “unholy trinity” of crack, sugar, and booze, which has variously and intentionally afflicted populations of color. The gameboard also includes specific sites, such as Wynwood, Cabrini Green, and Central Park — previously known as Seneca Village and seized by eminent domain from a population that was roughly two-thirds African American to make way for New York City’s celebrated greenspace. It also features more generic locations, common battlegrounds, and casualties of gentrification campaigns, such as “Chinatown,” “a ‘project,’” and “Skid Row” (making way for the Superbowl LVI at Rams stadium.)


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