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05th Jun 2008

Money is Art

Many people claim to have a problem – even problems with money in general. Almost no one has a problem with art in general. And yet, money is almost always also art.

Psalm 19 (Andy Warhol)

Andy Warhol knew this. He was a master of painting images and portraits of the icons of his popular culture. He especially focused on images of people that were created by other artists. For instance, his portraits usually involve media images photographed by others.

When Warhol created paintings or prints of objects they were usually popular commercial items that were designed by other artists and designers, such as the Campbell’s Soup cans.

All legal tender issued by United States Mint is art. The coins and bills all carry images and drawings. Andy Warhol knew this and understood the irony, which is now intensified as his paintings of dollar bills now fetch upwards of $ 4 million.

The currencies issued by most of the governments in the world contain art, both coins and paper tender. Stamps, which are a kind of currency in that they have a face value, are art. Some small countries earn part of their revenues from issuing beautiful limited edition stamps, mainly to collectors from other countries. Most everything that is issued with a face value and has no other purpose but to represent that value (as opposed to the items intrinsic worth and use or tickets to events), is imprinted with images and design. Bonds, stocks, discount coupons, often even gift certificates issued by small local businesses usually include art.

Granted, a great deal of this art is chosen for its PR value. The images and design visually promote the issuing source. For instance, the gift certificates available at a local restaurant have the logo or an image of the restaurant. Governments issue money with images of their leaders.

Money, stamps and fine art are all also collectibles. When a coin, bill or stamp is rare, for instance there was an error and the printing run was shortened, that makes them more valuable. There is always a limited amount of original work produced by any artist that can be collected, whether or not the value of the artist’s work increases over time..

The value of any art and any money is created by the decisions and actions of its creator/issuer and those who aspire to own it. It is the ultimate supply and demand paradigm, since other than the worth we assign to it, both art and money, especially paper money is basically worthless.

Artistic merit and worth are decisions. Like art created on and with materials that do not have much intrinsic value, the paper even a dollar bill is printed upon is worth less than the assigned value of $1.00. It is just a little rectangular piece of paper.

Oil paints applied to a canvas have no special value, and the artistic assignments of middle school students usually end up in the trash when they go off to college to study other disciplines. When an artist, such as Andy Warhol, uses paint on a canvas, over time the worth of that painted canvas increases as more people decide it is valuable. A Warhol canvas is far more valuable that the costs, which have increased since Warhol’s time for the canvas, framing materials and paints. No collector buys the materials, but rather what the artist created with them.

Although most recognized art collectors are also worth a great deal of money, they actually physically have and experience more fine art than money. The art is in their homes and offices and collections, which they see, maybe every day. Their money is indicated –but not actually shown – on ledgers, bank statements and reports prepared by accountants and financial executives. How many millionaires have actually seen a million one dollar bills at the same time – if ever?

There seems to be a connection between appreciating and collecting fine art on a regular basis and accruing greater wealth. This applies to individuals and societies. Although collecting art takes funds beyond what is required to obtain life’s necessities, those individuals, companies, communities and countries that revere and collect visual art prosper beyond any increase in the value of the art. In fact, emerging companies, professionals and business people will often collect newer artists, as they are affordable and offer a new vision.

Artists need patrons and collectors to survive, and obviously patrons must have the wealth to be able to afford art, but only to a degree. Historically, whenever a society began to emphasize and revere visual art (art that exists only to communicate and/or inspire) that society blossomed and became wealthy and influential. If and when the society’s artistic community became artistically regulated, when artists either were not encouraged or lacked the freedom to experiment then the societies or regime began to lose power and wealth.

Currently, although the stock market, real estate and other economic indicators are signifying problems in the USA, the art market continues to prosper and grow beyond expectations. Emerging collectors and museums have created an international market for art that for the first time ever, allows the work of living artists to span the globe.

Money is art. Money follows art. Anyone who is experiencing a lack of money – or wealth, is most likely also experiencing a lack of authentic, inspiring and visually challenging art.

Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art — Andy Warhol

3 Responses to “Money is Art”

  1. Michelle Johnson Says:

    Hey!! I am thoroughly impressed with your knowledge of Religious Art. Your insights into this article about Religious Art was well worth the the time to read it. I thank you for posting such awsome information. Signed Michelle Johnson on this Day Thursday.

  2. Amethyst Wyldfyre Says:

    LOVE This article! Love the connection of ART & Money – How Wonderful – I think I might make some art myself this weekend – and money too!! Love and infinite light, Amethyst Wyldfyre

  3. Erica Gilbert Says:

    Hi there… great blog!

    I am working with the Fayetteville Museum of Art to put on an warhol exhibition… we would love to use the image in your blog for our t-shirts… where did you get this image? is it public domain?


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