Friday, June 16, 2006

Picture Gallery :: Pretty Lucre

Damn! I've only JUST realised where the word 'lucrative' derives from...

Like everyone else on the planet, I’ve been thinking a lot about money. I suppose, again like most people, it’s because I often feel like I don’t have enough of it. Running an entire museum is a costly business. I have staff, overheads and acquisition charges just for a start. Then there’s publicity, amenities, entertainment costs, on-costs, off-costs and on the side expenses… it goes on and on.

So I am naturally interested in people who’ve got plenty of it.

Inky always says, “You can tell what Dog thinks about money by the people he choses to give it to.”

Personally, I’ve always thought that it said more about the giver…

But I do I think that you can tell a lot about people by what THEY see in money. And the most interesting are those who actually SEE money.

Most of us only register volume… we are impressed by simple financial plenitude. We don’t stop to actually look at what we’ve given so much time to obtaining. Money often occupies the front of our thoughts, but the bottoms of our pockets. It’s crammed into wallets, crushed into billfolds, crumpled in bags and purses. Money flows through our fingers, but the individual elements have about as much identity as a grain of sand in an hourglass.

Currency is the dust of money; ephemeral, fungible and ultimately arbitrary.

However both coins and paper money offer aesthetic treasures. seriykotik1970*, a denizen of Flickrland** (although currently resident in Russia), is an intrepid explorer of the minutiae of beauty. He holds his money up to the light to reveal a landscape of transparency and saturated inks, of engrained creases of use, and the warm patina of age. He revels in the fineness of engraving and reveals a coded language that speaks of national aspirations and individual veniality.
Paper Money. As seen here. Best seen in their largest size >>

Over at The Engraveyard, ephemera-obsessive James Lileks sees the funny side of money, whilst focusing our attention on the peculiarities of expression. As well as collecting money, Lileks also has fine collections of stock certificates and first-day covers. All with amusing and often insightful comments. He describes his stock certificate series:

“Each has an engraving of some allegorical figure, etched with the same care you find on money, but depicting scenes of surreal Olympian figures designed as a metaphor for business. Bouffant-haired women in gravity-confounding dresses similar to Leslie Parrish's in the Star Trek episode ("Who Will Mourn for Adonis") with electrical devices at their feet; "Green Acres" era Park Avenue matrons in classical garb rolling the world around their penthouse balcony; salacious-faced gods with a test-tube in one hand.”

The Engraveyard >>

* Aka Ian Goulden
**A magical kingdom of happy enchantments, where the sun always shines, everyone is pretty and there’s a permanent population explosion of kittens and flowers.