The Ministry of Artistic Affairs
Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In the wake of Hennessey Youngman’s hilarious and pointed YouTube critique of Damien Hirst (linked below) in which Hirst gets skewered for: a) perpretrating “a perfect storm of banality”, b) oozing an unprecedented level of “Iroc-Z Axe Body Spray douchery” and c) yes, using money as his medium, it seems an opportune moment to take a look at some other recent money-based projects as an interesting counterpoint to the art of excess.

Just yesterday, Hyperallergic profiled Occupy George, an online initiative in which infographics visualizing aspects of the economic disparity in the US have been made available for anyone to download and print onto dollar bills. The stated intent? To circulate the stamped money as much as possible, passing knowledge to all who come across the bills.

Meanwhile, artist Mark Wagner (top image) has been busy using money to express fraught relationships with said medium, albeit in a more playful and highly imaginative manner. His currency collages, meticulously assembled from tiny pieces of cut-up dollar bills, are sumptuous to look at; so thoroughly decontextualized are the finely engraved details of the dollar bill that they can be appreciated entirely anew. Although much of Wagner’s work makes only oblique reference to the current economic climate, many of his recent collages are more direct, featuring words and phrases such as TRUST and GAMING THE SYSTEM emblazoned across exquisitely rendered and surprisingly varied backgrounds composed of those iconic numbers and delicate green and grey flourishes. Ironically, Wagner’s cautionary collages make us want to beg, steal, or worse in order to be able to own one for ourselves.

Also in recent news, the Royal Canadian Mint has revealed that the artist commissioned to design 2012′s “Celebration” quarters is Gary Taxali, internationally known for his whimsical, retro visual style. Due to be unveiled on January 17th, the limited edition series of keepsake coins were created by Taxali for marking occasions such as birthdays, weddings, and even lost teeth. Although he has been collected by the likes of the Whitney and the Victoria and Albert Museum, anyone can now own a Taxali or six, albeit rendered in miniature and in metal. Either way it’s all good if, as Taxali hopes, contemporary art and design can make us “more mindful of our money and more culturally aware”. He goes on to say, “Artists are the pulse of humanity. If we put their original designs on coins, we honour our heritage.”

ART THOUGHTZ: Damien Hirst, by Hennessey Youngman on YouTube
Occupy George website
“Taking the protest to the money” article on Occupy George at Hyperallergic
Artist Mark Wagner’s website
Mark Wagner’s gallery, Pavel Zoubok
Wagner’s work featured on Inhabitat
“Celebration” quarters mark a fresh direction for the Royal Mint, article at

By Ministry of Artistic Affairs member Shani Parsons on her excellent blog Typologica.