After becoming an accountant, it’s possible that one day you’ll deal with quite remarkable amounts of money. When you see how much big business turns over, the coins in your pocket, and even the cash in your checking account, may seem like chump change. However, to produce something truly special, you don’t necessarily need huge stacks on your side, as these ten artists demonstrate. And while their work is made entirely out of U.S. currency, it’s the creativity and imagination that goes into these pieces – sometimes created with as little as a dollar – that is truly amazing. Read on for ten incredible artworks made from money.
10. Justine Smith – Absolute Power
Money is at the heart of Justine Smith’s most recent work, with the London, England-based artist exploring the political, societal and ethical significance of cold, hard cash in prints, collages, and sculptures like the striking piece pictured above. Smith’s 2005 work “Absolute Power” is an almost life-sized reproduction of a handgun created entirely from one-dollar bills, perhaps suggesting that, in today’s world, having money can give one the same sense of authority and dominance that one might experience when in possession of a deadly firearm. It’s taken from Smith’s “Weapons” series, which includes further gun models made from dollar bills plus the Myanmar kyat, as well as hand grenades crafted from U.S. dollars, Chinese yuan and Iranian rials.
9. Dave Cole – Money Dress
This wearable work of art is the brainchild of American sculpture and installation artist Dave Cole. It uses 1,124 one-dollar bills, which have been shredded into strips and then knitted by hand into a full-length evening gown that would be quite the talking point at a gala or fundraising event. Sadly, the 2006 piece is not for sale, so anyone wishing to make a similar statement would need to get busy with their own bills and needles. Cole specializes in mixing handcrafted and industrial elements. Other impressive and slightly subversive works of his include a replica of the U.S. flag made from retrieved bullets and bullet scraps, and baby clothes fabricated from bulletproof materials.
8. Stephen Doyle – Structural Dollar
By day, New Yorker Stephen Doyle is the creative director of design firm Doyle Partners – and the fact that he creates his intricate sculptural paper artworks in his spare time arguably makes them even more precious. Sometimes they are the result of commissions. The structure seen above featured on the cover of the March 2010 edition of Wired magazine. A series of four other dollar bills – which were shredded and cut into intriguing new patterns – appeared alongside reviews of books about the financial crisis in The New York Times. Perhaps most surprisingly, the designer uses no structural framework in the making of his artworks, as the paper’s stiffness once folded is more than sufficient to bear his pieces’ weight.
7. Won Park – Koi
Honolulu-based Won Park has been described as “the master of origami,” and considering the fact that this remarkably life-like koi is made out of a single one-dollar bill, we can see why. Park’s take on the traditional Japanese art form sees him use currency as the material for his work, which – due to his incredible skills – can become anything from a Chinese dragon to a scorpion, or even a model version of Star Wars’ famous Millennium Falcon. If you feel like testing your own paper-folding knowhow, then you’re in luck: in 2011 Park published an instructional book that shares the secrets behind his fantastical creations – like the amazing carp. It also features some sheets of fake money, just in case you don’t want to crease your own cash.
6. Artmoney Studio – Urban Landscape
Artmoney Studio, which created the striking cityscape above, was founded by Latvian artist Irina Truhanova. She now has a small team to help produce and promote the studio’s finely detailed works, which, like the name suggests, use currency as a medium and which themselves change hands for hundreds of dollars. Truhanova explained the concept to The Telegraph, saying, “I wanted to create mosaics that personified freedom, independence, business and capital, and using real U.S. currency seemed to fit this perfectly.” The Artmoney team initially envisions the picture through a pencil sketch, then chooses which parts of the bill to cut out in order to assemble the selected image. Artmoney also offers a made-to-order collage service – so if you’ve ever dreamed of having your face on a dollar bill, this could be the next best thing.
5. Chad Person – Kraken
The detail on Chad Person’s 2012 monster masterpiece “Kraken” is so astounding that the fact that it was made entirely out of dollar bills seems almost unimaginable. That said, the numbers on the legendary sea creature’s huge tentacles give the game away somewhat. The work is part of the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based artist’s series “Here There Be Monsters,” which also features a dragon, whale and bear, amongst others, painstakingly rendered in pieces of cash. Person invests a great deal of both time and money into his impressive collages, but given the fact that they weren’t commissioned by a willing buyer, this may strike some as odd. However, Person himself has said of his work, “I love the idea that people outside of the art-making community would consider this wasteful.”
4. Sean Diediker – Trump
Donald Trump may be worth a cool $3.2 billion, but we suspect that the business magnate wouldn’t mind the fact that only a fraction of his fortune – that is, a comparatively measly $1,400 or so – went into the portrait of him by Southern California native Sean Diediker. The piece was created by carefully creasing the one-dollar bills used for its composition, then placing them in the right spots to make up the instantly recognizable features of the Celebrity Apprentice star. Trump is in good company, too, as Diediker’s series of money art also features the likes of Frank Sinatra, Barack Obama and former U.S. Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Perhaps Trump could hang this in the Oval Office if he ever succeeds in his rumored 2016 bid for the White House.
3. Scott Campbell – Pièce de Résistance
Brooklyn’s Scott Campbell is actually a tattoo artist by trade, and his use of the art form’s iconography is apparent in his amazing “Pièce de Résistance.” The cube measures more than two feet square, and inside lurks a three-dimensional skull. After the viewer gets over their surprise, they can appreciate the care and attention that has gone into laser-cutting each facet of the piece, which is created from $11,000s’ worth of dollar bills. Campbell has produced a lot of art from money, and skulls are more than a bit of a motif for him. In one of his pieces, a grinning skull appears to burst out of a panel of bills, while another carved into a similar wall of currency coolly smokes what looks like a cigar. And for those who like their art a little cutesier, another of the New Yorker’s works features a smiling teddy bear cut out of dollar bills.
2. Mark Wagner – Duhdunt
This unbelievably intricate collage by Mark Wagner is a nod to Steven Spielberg’s classic 1975 thriller Jaws, replicating the terrifying scene depicted on the movie’s theatrical release poster. The sea monster lurking beneath the waves arguably looks even more frightening than a great white, though, and we don’t envy the swimming George Washington one bit. Perhaps due to his presence on the one-dollar bill, the material with which Wagner works, Washington features in a lot of the Brooklyn artist’s slyly humorous output, where he can be seen walking through the garden browsing a newspaper, feasting on a bit of cash and, believe it or not, standing up against a dinosaur. In Wagner’s 2013 piece “Manifest Destiny,” multiple copied faces of the first president of the U.S. even make up a replica map of the country.
1. Stacey Lee Webber – Carpenter’s Tools
Stacey Lee Webber used pennies to create her quite remarkable set of tools, in view of the personal histories they hold after being passed from individual to individual. As the Philadelphia-based artist says herself, “When that penny is picked up and used in a sculpture, the new object is layered with rich stories of struggle and triumph.” The saw, hammer and screwdrivers shown above are all comprised of coins minted before 1992 and were cut by hand and soldered together to form the intricate, three-dimensional imitation tools. They are part of Webber’s “The Craftsmen Series,” which pays tribute to the hardworking blue-collar folk of the U.S. The artist has also produced a set of tools made from dimes and quarters, and American flags incorporating pennies, steel and brass.