From Bankruptcy to Sublimation: Monetary Landscapes on View in Lebanon

See money in a different way! Gallery artists, Samuel Coisne and Yann Dumoget, destroy banknotes in order to retain their aesthetic value, thereby sublimating their triviality. Their monetary artwork is on display at Alice Mogabgab Gallery until June 29. Discover how art and money get along in the art world…

Art and money get along well. As far back as the 1st century, Pliny the Elder (23-79) spoke of the capital gain in art, of the riches accumulated by the artist, but also of a painting worth its weight in gold. If the price of an artwork is important to the artist, money often holds a central place in a composition: from a shiny gold coin to a simple silver ditto, from a bank note to a monetary symbol, representations of money, whether metaphorical or realistic, fluctuate up through the history of art, between vice and charity, between denunciation and consecration. Money evokes power, the power that commands the world, man and art.

In 1981, Andy Warhol produced the series Dollar Sign, a set of silkscreen prints representing one, two or several $ signs, drawn by the artist with vivid colours. These works, representations of a symbol having become the golden calf of globalisation, were soon fetching record prices. Warhol had ‘made’ money from the reproduction of a symbol.

In 1984, during a television program, Serge Gainsbourg set light to a 500-franc note, denouncing the French tax system. The performance caused an immediate outrage, and until this date, the scene remains intact in many people’s memories. In 2010, Hans-Peter Feldman, recipient of the Hugo Boss Prize, lined the gallery walls of the New York Guggenheim Museum with one hundred thousand 1$ notes, the exact amount of the prize awarded to him the same year. The used notes were simply pinned to the walls, without any protection. Their green foliage effect would wear off as one’s gaze moved closer to the work, merely seeing a worn, shabby aspect. Whilst some accumulate, whitewash and venerate money, others destroy, disfigure and glorify it.

Samuel Coisne draws and cuts out, with elaborate, refined and precise dexterity, minute geometric and vegetal forms in the banknotes. Playing with the fragility of the note, he pins it to a cardboard background and transforms this power icon into a rectangle (or circle) of lacework, enhancing the shadows and the light. Humor and cynicism are never far away: each work, of an initial value of 1$, could fetch, if sold, several hundred dollars.

While, Yann Dumoget has for many years collected banknotes from all over the world. The inevitable destiny of these notes, over a long period of time, is to lose their financial value as they are replaced by new series of notes. All that remains of these small, engraved masterpieces printed on precious paper are their colors and their motifs. By cutting out, assembling and then gluing his pieces onto sheets of cardboard, Dumoget creates new landscapes; he outlines cities, brings together colors from all around the world and revisits history in the light of humanity, both destroying and enhancing money, the object of all covetousness.

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