Bureau de Change
12 – 21 February 1988
The installation 'Bureau de Change' is a playful criticism of the relationship between business, economics and art, and a comment on the gap between the original role of painting and its position within ownership, investment and competition.
Rose Finn-Kelcey began to work on 'Bureau de Change' at the time of the Van Gogh 'Sunflowers' sale, in response to the irony contained within the great auction value of the painting (£25 million) in relation to the fact that the artist had not been able to sell it for £25.
The video camera in the piece suggests surveillance whilst relaying the image onto the vertical, with reduced definition on the screen, so that the image resembles a painting. When the composition of money is discovered the preciousness and desirability of the piece and its potential for theft is emphasised, and a tension set up, drawing out common fears about money and power.
In its regional showings, the frequent reaction is laughter and amazement. Few have seen money as loose change on that scale, or used as a material in its own right. It has an accessibility; money is something about which everyone feels strongly. Most people also know the work of Van Gogh and the Sunflowers sale. People take a great interest in the way the piece was made, and its display of 'skill', and the suggestion that it has taken a long time to make.
The dirt and smell of the actual money gives an intimate, direct contact with people. It suggests that money is not clean, and refers to its history, circulating round the country, in people's pockets. The ephemerality of the piece, which only exists when it has been assembled, suggests a kind of irreverence in using money as a material, which challenges its sacrosanct value and sense of power.
The choice of money as a medium acts as a direct communication, since it determines everyone's lives. British currency allows a lot of flexibility in colour and tone, which facilitates the achievement of the definition needed. Audiences have been startled at how clearly the picture reads, and it has been likened to the experience of visiting the Crown Jewels.
The presence of the security guard emphasises the importance and preciousness both of the piece and of the large amount of money. The guard's presence simultaneously suggests the possibility of theft whilst acting as a reassurance of protection. It mimics the security employed to guard the kind of depicted in the piece. The guard is an authority figure, who represents justice and security.
The piece comments on the gallery in a way which echoes Haacke. The viewing tower, which can take only one person at a time, emphasises the position of the viewer, drawing attention to the process of viewing, and the inaccessibility to the piece. The red rope is a humorous play on keeping the spectator at a distance from the artwork.
This will be the only showing of the piece in London.