Freshly Minted: Artist with a yen for the folding

16 February 2016 - 02:10 By Sean O'Toole

Money is not a throwaway thing but even banknotes and coins have a lifespan, as Beninese artist Meschac Gaba's new exhibition, Bank or Economy, smartly explores.The exhibition, at dealer Michael Stevenson's rejigged Woodstock gallery, comprises three pine structures resembling trading stalls. Each displays mostly defunct currencies.There are various reasons currencies die, ranging from old age and overuse to revolution and the demand they create for new symbols. Take South Africa.One of Gaba's stalls includes an old R1 note featuring Dutch colonial administrator Jan van Riebeeck with his poodle hairdo.In 1994, the SA Reserve Bank issued new look banknotes depicting the Big Five. In 2012, this remarkably people-less design was updated to feature Nelson Mandela on the reverse of all five notes.Crippling inflation can also cause a currency to expire. Another stall displays Zimbabwean dollars.Speaking in a dense French-Beninese accent, Gaba likened these traders to museum directors managing their own contemporary African art museums.Gaba first began working with money in the 1990s, pasting it onto work. It was a purposefully attention-grabbing gesture."Money is what people like best, and then they start thinking," he said in 2000.His installations not only mimic the way business is done on the street, but also crucially expands the inquiry of money's meaning to the ephemeral art market, where commerce is neatly disguised as culture.On at the Stevenson, Cape Town, until February 27

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