Money is a particularly thorny subject for art, one that unsettles the division between cultural value versus economic ones. It also touches on a commonly held feeling that art is a luxury and elite commodity—which is in part true of the work held in art museums and personal collections, or that traded in auction houses to headline figures. Yet it overlooks the reality that the vast majority of art does not have such financial worth, and that art of different types surrounds in our homes and workplaces, and in the media, as ever present as the money we use daily. When contemporary artists choose to focus on representations of money, commerce and economics in their work it is not only critical position but also an exploration of representations of an inherently conceptual ´thing´ that we take for granted.
“The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972”, as artist and writer Lucy R. Lippard would go on to call the advent of conceptual art, was a radical turning point in contemporary art. Nevertheless, it should not be seen as isolated to aesthetics. Conceptual art was accompanied, indeed responded to a broader revolution that dematerialized information of all kinds through computing and communication advances. How money was used and circulated was one of the most significant transformations at the time that impacted on day to day living. Most notably 1966 saw the introduction of the universal credit card. Not only did this begin to replace cash, but, and perhaps more significantly, it deferred repayments into the future. One no longer needed to have money in one’s account, or even ask for a specific loan, in order to spend freely, until repayment day. The spirit of conceptual art was along the same trajectory. Without an object, the work of art ‘lived in one´s head’ to paraphrase the title of Harald Szeemann’s seminal exhibition of conceptual art from 1967.