The history of money (from barter to cowrie shells, and coins and paper to recent electronic cryptocurrencies) is not simply a narrowly economic one. Currency plays a much wider role that includes social, institutional, and psychological concerns. Its origins stem equally from duties and tributes, dowries and religious rites, and conspicuous consumption, as from barter and commerce.
The portrayal of money and its power has long been depicted by artists who have represented the complexities and the idiosyncrasies of our changing economy through artworks of compelling significance. Mediums of Exchange highlights works by contemporary artists who employ, appropriate, and re-contextualize aspects of currency. Several artists use money itself as a material in their work, while others adopt more conceptual approaches that address how economies function. Sociologically-minded investigations examine the social and psychological tensions at play between the powerful idea of the American Dream and the complex reality of the modern economic system. While other artists examine some of the pressing financial issues of today – including identity theft and distrust of the banking industry, and the tensions imbedded in capitalist systems in which a small few control the vast percentage of wealth.
Mediums of Exchange is co-curated by Lisa Panzera, director of the Shirley Fiterman Art Center, and Bartholomew F. Bland, director of the Lehman College Art Gallery.