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According to Gillian Tett of the Financial Times, “Bankers today deal with plenty of modern art, in the sense that they are constantly buying it or organising benefits to finance galleries.” But how many modern artists are dealing with banking as a subject? Gillian Tett suggests that the credit crisis has passed visual artists by, “Maybe that is just because finance is too boring, at least in a visual sense” she ponders. Her article is a call for artists to “try to create visual art that makes us reflect on the power and peculiarity of modern money,” in order to provide a fresh perspective for us all.
For bankers and non-bankers alike, and especially for Gillian Tett, here are three talented artists exploring the art of finance and offering intriguing new visions on the meaning of money...
Artist Justine Smith has long been interested in the concept of money and how it touches our lives. In her unique artwork she explores money as a conduit of power and as a system of value. Her primary medium is paper collage and bank notes in particular. Through her collages, and paper sculptures, she examines our relationship with money in a political, moral and social sense.
‘The Money Map of the World’ was a seminal piece for Justine Smith. The original map took 7 months to create and is made from the world’s banks notes collaged to represent each autonomous state with its own currency. “The Money Map of the World isn’t like a political map which shows all of the individual countries,” explains Smith, this map is rather a record of the boundaries of currencies. It questions the global impact of finances and the power money holds to define, divide and conquer.
Furthermore, in piece such as ‘Money Map of the World 2013’, Justine Smith highlights how fascinating banks notes are as physical objects. “All over the world bank notes reflect the society that makes them,” explains Justine Smith, “You can tell so much about a country by its currency – some choose to celebrate national heritage by showing great members of society, others choose to show natural virtues, like wildlife, logging or mining, and then of course there are those that glorify leaders.”
Fiasco is an artistic collaboration based in London. Their work focuses on the world of finance and they embody their economic interests, describing themselves as a “corporation” made up from the unlikely combination of two artists and a banker, otherwise known as the “Shareholders”.
Fiasco’s bold limited edition prints such as, ‘Love – Blue, White and Red’, ‘$ Dollar – Green’ and ‘Evolution – Bankers will Rise Again’, explore different aspects of the financial crisis. With their insider insights they create humorous and provocative images, forcing viewers to reflect on any prejudices they may have about the financial sector. Fiasco seeks to lift the veil on the uncharted motivations, emotions and relationships of the financial sector in contemporary society.
Fiasco are inspired by pop culture and Pop Art, in particular this Andy Warhol quote, “Being good at business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and... good business is the best art.” Through their appropriation of Pop Art classics, such as Robert Indiana’s ‘Love’, Fiasco rework iconic imagery for the present day, complete with its global markets, financial crisis, and scorned bankers.
Like Fiasco, world renowned Street artist D*Face is similarly influenced by Pop Art. Although, D*Face believes that, “It never went far enough to critique consumerism.” Thus, since his rise to fame in the Street Art explosion, D*Face has been creating artwork to critique consumerism and the capitalist system it results from. Rooted in this visual investigation is an appetite for deconstruction and provocation.
‘The Dollar’, ‘Saddamned’ and ‘American Depress’ are three examples of D*Face deconstructing and defacing familiar bank notes and a credit card to create provocative prints which question not only consumerism, but power, politics and the financial crisis. D*Face told ‘The Independent’ back in 2006, “I did a project in 2003 where I got £20 notes and defaced them before putting them back in the system. There were 20 variations of hand drawings and printing techniques in which the monarchy is satirised, with images of the Queen being hung and having her head chopped off. Last April, I marked her 80th birthday by showing her dead, with a skull and crossbones...”
In ‘The Lost Art of Finance’, Gillian Tett writes “But the power of art, at its best, is that it can make us see the world afresh – realise that there can be beauty in the unseen details of daily life or horror lurking behind familiar scenes.” These examples of artists inspired by money, finance and capitalism reveal the beauty of currency, the iconic financial imagery of daily life, and the horror lurking behind the familiar bank note... Visual artists are definitely reflecting “on the power and peculiarity of modern money,” and offering fresh perspectives.