People who say “It’s only money” need to have their eyes checked. Those bills are more than money. Artists, illustrators, and engravers infuse in the intricate details a lot of passion, heart, and skill. They depict heroes and history, and objects of national pride. They reveal to the world a glimpse of a country’s character and a people’s personality. Every element, every curl, every little thing depicted is like a line in a poem, a piece of a puzzle, a clue to a mystery.
Money does not just buy things, it symbolizes the country in which it is used. But unlike famous mountains or monuments, new bills are printed and new coins are minted continually, and every so often, they get redesigned and relaunched. Currency is like fashion in the red carpet of international business and tourism. It can be a country’s mode of self-expression, and perhaps even self-promotion.
So here are some countries that I would like to visit and get to know better, based purely on how their bills look.
Aruba. It really looks exotic, and exciting, but the pastel colors give it a light and fun feel. Love the tribal patterns within the geometric shapes. That turtle looks very friendly and welcoming too. I immediately think beaches, snorkeling and beating drums.
Suriname. This country seems to boast of awesome biodiversity. I imagine a tropical eco-paradise wherein I could explore rainforests and see unusual and fascinating plants and creatures.
Close the World on Flickr folded up bills from all over the world origami style and created fabulously irreverent hatted paper heads. Eat your heart out Philip Treacy!
Money is not only the means to buy art materials with. It can be the art medium in itself, which a lot of artists have found to be greatly inspiring. Take Hanna von Goeler for example, who put together a series that she called “My Currency, My Art”, in which she uses the dollar bill as a canvas for powerful and thought-provoking visual statements.
And then there’s tattoo artist Scott Campbell who took a blade to the same dollar bill, and ran with it, taking it to a totally different place.
And then there’s this trio of extremely talented artists known collectively as Alternating Currency whose skill and artistic vision allow money to speak with an eloquence that is truly priceless, leaving us breathless and in awe.