Artist Leaves 100,000 Pennies in Abandoned Fountain to See How People React to It

English artist Anna Brownsted left 100,000 pennies in an abandoned public fountain in Cambridge, over the weekend, in a bid to explore human nature. The money was all stolen in just one day.

The coins worth £1,000 were placed in the fountain at Quayside, in Cambridge, at 8 am on Saturday, and were supposed to be left there for 48 hours. However, by 9 am on Sunday, over 99% of the coins had been removed from the fountain, despite clear signs informing passers-by that the fountain was under constant CCTV surveillance. Only £1.66 worth of pennies were left, but organizers didn’t consider it theft, but a “provocative outcome”.

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“Pence Sterling was an invitation to respond, a provocation,” artist Anna Brownsted said. “It was an experiment in the dynamics of human behavior and our complex reactions to heightened situations.”

The money was put in the fountain for people to interact with as they see fit, but Anna Brownsted admitted that she was amazed by how fast all the coins disappeared. She wanted to see if people would use the money to make a wish or use it for themselves, and planned to donate all that was left to a local charity. I guess that won’t be happening…


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The money used for this artistic social experiment was from an Arts Council England lottery grant, which also funded five other artistic installations in Cambridge over the weekend.

“We do not consider the removal of the money to be a theft as the money was there for people to interact with as they saw fit as part of this art project,” artistic director Daniel Pitt said. “The experiment had a provocative outcome, it opened conversations about human nature and the bystander effect.”


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The coins weighed a total of 356 kilograms, and with copper being relatively valuable, it’s not that hard to understand why some people couldn’t help themselves.

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