Exhibition preview: "In __ We Trust: Art and Money" examines our complex relationship the almighty dollar

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

We all want money, right? But do we really “like” money? It’s implicit in our everyday lives and the fundamental principal of our capitalist society. Our relationship with money is a vastly complicated one — can it buy happiness and be the root of all evil? — and that’s what’s explored in the Columbus Museum of Art’s latest contemporary art exhibition, “In __ We Trust: Art and Money.”

The exhibit features 26 artists from around the world — from the U.S. and Europe to South America and Asia — assessing the dynamic between civilization, society, humanity and money. Four of the museum’s galleries house diverse works — in terms of scope and ideology, as well as size and medium — representing the artist’s perspective on money.

These artists are examining all aspects, from something as simple as its material form to more complex ideas about its (un)quantifiable value and position as a social contract.

“There are works in this show that are about, or suggest, that value is also a matter of perception. It’s about that shifting gears; what appears to lack in value actually can have something of value,” said Tyler Cann, the museum’s associate curator of contemporary art.

This collection of artists approaches creating money-inspired art from a number of directions. Some use money itself, coins and bills from numerous denominations and nations, as the medium or subject matter. Others approach money as a representation of ideas, like value, faith and trust.

“There is that proposition of trust, or faith which is central to this exhibition. To use money you have to accept currency from someone, you have to have faith that you can pass that money on, and that it will keep on circulating through the economy,” Cann said. “Likewise, the economy itself is dependent on a collective state of mind. When we have confidence in the economy, it actually strengthens the economy. When we lose confidence that’s when the economy starts to fall apart and we can experience significant crisis as a result. Money and the economy is as much a state of mind as it is a tangible object.”

Ushering visitors into “In __ We Trust” is an installation by the Danish collective Superflex featuring floor-to-ceiling banners of the logos (sans words) of banks that have gone bankrupt since the financial crisis of 2008. In between each banner is a plaque listing every bank that’s failed from 2008 to 2013. You’ll be shocked by the sheer number.

While the undesirable aspects of money can be found in the exhibition, it would be dismissive to describe these works as purely oppositional. The artists aren’t merely railing against a culture of wealth and/or greed; they are considering the relationship between money and society, whether on a macro or personal level.

How does something as simple as a receipt from a restaurant speak volumes about who we “are”? What happens when we replace “dolla, dolla bills y’all” with something more treasured like time? How can 10,000 pennies or more than 1,000 one-dollar bills be transformed into a masterpiece that implicates its own material while simultaneously entrancing the viewer?

These are not easily answered questions, and “In __ We Trust” is a similarly complicated exhibition, despite the all-too-well-known theme.

Photo copyright Pat Kilgore

Columbus Musuem of Art

Oct. 3-March 1

480 E. Broad St., Downtown