Regular readers know I have an interest in "money art", such as the work of J.S.G. Boggs. Here's an article about another money artist from Japan. Unfortunately, the article is unillustrated. I wonder if this week's earthquake and its aftermath have affected the studio exhibiting his work.
"I find money and art have something in common. Money, over which humans fight, is nothing more than paper for animals. Similarly, art can carry great meaning or say nothing. People praise the Mona Lisa, for example, but one could also say it is little more than a piece of cloth. Once we become caught up in their perceived values, we fall for them. In this way, the two things are very similar," says artist Yasumasa Morimura.
"I've long been examining the relationship between artistic expression and money--or more precisely, paper money. In 1991, I made my first work based on this idea, using a 1,000 yen bill, using my own image [to replace that of Soseki Natsume]. But this is the first time I've ever exhibited my bank note work in a comprehensive way," the artist tells The Daily Yomiuri, referring to Morimura Yasumasa--Shozo Keizai, Sonota (Yasumasa Morimura: Self-portrait of economy), which opened last week at BLD Gallery in Ginza, Tokyo.
Morimura is best known for his self-portraits in which he places his visage in famous images of everything from actresses and revolutionaries to characters from well-known works of art as featured in his Requiem series, which began with his 1985 re-creation of a Van Gogh self-portrait. He has reinterpreted self-portraits and other art by masters diverse as Velazquez, Goya, da Vinci and Monet.
In discussing the similarities between these seemingly disparate objects (money and art), he also stresses their differences. "Although good or unusual design is held in high regard, these factors don't affect a bill's financial value. They are valued purely for their face value, with the exception of antique bills. So they are very different in that respect."
While working on his Requiem series, Morimura says he was surprised to discover that many of the historical figures whose portraits appear on our currency are not only representatives of the 20th century, but in a broad sense, revolutionaries.
"Take Che (Ernesto Guevarra), Mahatma Gandhi, Vladimir Lenin, Albert Einstein and Mao Zedong. Each of these people strove for something, believed there were things that money couldn't replace," Morimura said. "But in the end, they literally became part of money. I find that both interesting and ironic, and it gave me a lot to think about."
In addition to the seven revolutionary figures listed above whose guise Morimura donned for the portraits, and the original 1,000 yen-bill based work, Shozo Keizai also explores currency from Italy, the Netherlands and Mexico, which carry the images of Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Frida Kahlo, respectively. Morimura said the three are reflective of three persistent questions.
In the case of the Italian bill, Morimura said he wanted to express the notion that the desire for love or beauty--or an aesthetic consciousness--overcomes the idea of abstinence or morality, as Italy did not hesitate to put on its currency the face of an artist who was known as an outlaw. "Caravaggio was a bad guy and murderer. Still, he was chosen as the image of printed matter produced with national credit."
To read the complete article, see:
Personality cash: Yasumasa Morimura explores the revolutionaries on our money
Wayne Homren, Editor
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