Currency Art, also known as Money Art, is a relatively new art style which carries a rich history. Currency art has roots linking to the pop art movement in the 1950s & 60s. Not as an independent style, but rather as a sub-genre. Andy Warhol one of the first artist to use currency as canvas for his art. Al thought the depictions were rather simple, the message was quite strong.


Defacing notes is a criminal offence in most countries. Forging banknotes can lead to a fine or even a jail sentence. Just try uploading an image of a bank note on Photoshop. It won’t work. But that hasn’t stopped protesters from committing the crime. In 2014, anti-Israel campaigners hit the news for defacing five-pound notes with a stamp reading: ‘Free Palestine! Boycott Israel!!!’. It was a clever way of spreading their message. People picked them up from the street or used them to pay for things.

The artists behind the Free Palestine protest aren’t know. Other artist, however haven’t been so fortunate. JSG Boggs for example. This american artist had a run in with the law quite a few times. Boggs used all kinds of currency as canvas for his art. He has always denied that he was a counterfeiter. He simply stated that his art was to challenge to value of money. The authorities, however, had a different opinion. He was arrested nurtures times and even got his home raided from time to time.


In some cases, however, it’s all in the name of art. The style is most commonly used to depict an artist’s perception of financial climates and political injustice. The artwork ironically emphasises societal issues such as greed, extreme wealth and capitalism. In other words, the currency artists use the thing they hate to create the thing they love. Art.


Currency art. Di-Faced by Banksy

Banksy’s extremely rare ‘Di-Faced’ 10-pound notes are one of the most sought-after money designs. The note, which replaces the face of the queen with Princess Diana’s portrait and reads ‘The Banksy of England’, was first released in August 2004. A roll of notes was thrown into the crowd at Notting Hill Carnival and Reading Festival. Some of those bills were used as actual currency during the Reading Festival, which prompted Banksy to cease distribution. He later re-used the notes in a lithograph, created to commemorate Princess Diana’s 10th anniversary of her death and again in his art piece, ‘Million-Pound Briefcase.’

Although the ‘Di-Faced’ banknotes are considered counterfeit notes, Banksy was not charged for the crime. In his film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy acknowledges that he had forged around a million pounds and the incident at Reading Festival was a criminal offence, commenting in the documentary that he could have faced a 10-year jail sentence.

Hand-drawn depictions of banknotes.

J.S.G. Boggs wasn’t as fortunate as Banksy. He had been arrested twice and acquitted twice for counterfeiting. The first arrest was in England in 1986 and it was a direct result of Boggs that all Bank of England banknotes carry a copyright logo. Just because they couldn’t catch him with counterfeit activity, they were at least going to secure a future win on copyright violation. The second arrest (and acquittal) was in Australia in 1989. Between 1990 and 1992, his home was raided three times by the US Secret Service on suspicion of counterfeiting, but alas the government couldn’t build up a case to take him to court.

For those of you unfamiliar with the artist, J.S.G. Boggs made a name for himself by hand-drawing only one side of a US dollar bill. The story goes that a waitress in Chicago accepted one of his hand-drawn dollar bills as payment for his cheque. From then, he would exchange his drawings for the value of the note that is depicted. For example, he would exchange a $50 bill for goods worth that amount. Boggs considered his exchanges to be ‘performance art’ and encouraged his audience to examine the bill, question and then consider what it is that makes money so valuable.

Today’s Currency Art.

Currency Art has become increasingly popular in more recent years. With capitalism on the rise, artists and activists alike are taking to the banknote to express their opinions on the current state of affairs. Artists have become quite creative, from money-gami (origami using banknotes) to oil paintings on pennies. 


If you would like to enjoy your very own piece of currency art, UP & COMING ART represents a number of artists who use banknotes as their canvas. The elusive Moabit uses the dollar bill for his/her creations. Using bright colours and much-loved, cartoon characters – like Homer Simpson, scrooge and Donald Duck, Moabit depicts his/her views on capitalism, drug abuse and global events such as the refugee crisis.


Alternatively, you may enjoy the work of Hayden Kays. He has made a name for himself with his controversial opinions expressed in his various forms of art. Like most artists creating currency art, Kays expresses his opinion of the controversy related to money and greed. In an interview with Arcadia magazine, Kays rejects the notion that his artwork is controversial but rather the controversy lies in the “Billions of humans not having food, water and shelter. While millions of humans have everything in excess”.

Did you enjoy this story?

Sign up for our newsletter!

You'll never miss one of our stories and receive 5% off your next purchase.

Leave a Reply