Art Seen through the Color of Money?
By the middle of the last century, the then contemporary art and the art of previous generations was not at all part of the art market, nor was it related to the world of money and financial speculations in a way and to the extent that we are witnessing today. A real boom in the use of banknotes as a theme and in iconography, as well as a readymade object is traced since the appearance of the first generation of pop-artists. Among them are Roy Lichtenstein with his lithographic edition Ten Dollar Bill (1956), but of course the most significant is Andy Warhol, who from the early 1960s onwards not only referred to banknotes, but even raised to a completely different level the relation of art, multiplication and money. We may recall a few interesting examples of recombining the dollar in his early drawings and hand-painted canvases (One Dollar Bill, 1962), multi-screen prints (200 One Dollar Bills, 1962), fictitious banknotes (Art Cash, 1971) and signed original banknotes, and especially important as a major turn is his statement that “doing good business is the most fascinating kind of art”.
In 2011, Hans-Peter Feldman stuck $100,000 on the gallery walls at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, a work that is almost a literal quote of Warhol’s famous statement that instead of buying an image of $200,000 it’s better to “take that money, tie it up, and hang it on the wall.”
Even in such a short survey I cannot but mention Robert Morris‘s “brain” clad with dollars (Brain, 1963-64), Cildo Meireles‘s work Zero Dollar (1978/84), Mark Lombardi with his diagrams exposing the traces of money and the networks of power, Joseph Beuys and his concept of creative capital, then Komar and Melamid with their projects and the company “for buying and selling souls” (Komar&Melamid Inc. NY , We Buy and Sell Souls, 1979), including the transaction for Warhol’s soul in 1979.
There are also numerous examples of art interventions on actual banknotes, through which artists reflect, comment and criticize the monetary system, politics, arts and relations between corporations and the overall economy, from the simplest pop interventions by replacing the presidents’ characters, such as James Charles and Akira Beard or as in the remarkable work of Halil Altindere, Dance with Taboos (1997), to those of the brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman with monstrous drawings and caricatures on the pounds (Currency Project, 2007) performed at the Frieze Art Fair in London in 2007, as well as numerous not widely known artists as Donald and Era Farnsworth, and their series Art Notes. Or, for example, Mark Wagner‘s surreal scenes (as in the Washington at Large series), collages with details of the dollar he has meticulously producing since 1999.
8. Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: (From A to B and Back Again), (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975), 92.
9. This work by Feldman and the work of Wilfredo Prieto, One Million Dollars (2002) are especially important to me because they are part of a series of synchronicities I noticed with unrealized works titled Afterboard. More on this and in more details about the works that deal with the financial system, at some other occasion.
10. “I like money on the wall. Say you were going to buy a $200,000 painting. I think you should take that money, tie it up, and hang it on the wall.” — Andy Warhol, 1975.