Colombian artist Santiago Montoya (b. 1974) uses paper currency as the base for his work, re-contextualizing one of our most basic and intimate relationships: the relationship with money. Comprised of works that Montoya has made over the last ten years, The Great Swindle exhibition at the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas represents a sustained examination of the complicated, fluid relationships we have with financial systems. The Great Swindle is also a journey through the artist’s forays into the materiality of paper bills – raising questions and taking positions on our places within financial systems.Montoya follows a multidisciplinary approach that embraces traditional painting, found objects and video documentary. In carefully structured series, he uses the aesthetics of materials to introduce meaning, resulting in collections where appearance and concept bear equal weight. He comments on a broad swathe of political issues, from conservation and dispossession to the transmission of information, aiming to uncover reality and bring to light the victory of the human spirit over adversity.
Montoya has in recent years turned next to cash money as a theme. The Great Swindle (2007–ongoing) looks at paper money as a platform of political propaganda, exploiting iconic pictures to bolster power and embed imagery in the national consciousness. The series journeys through history exploring iconography and idealism across a cultural spectrum, from model planes and boats inspired by Communist China’s food coupons of the 1950s and 1960s to portraits of fallen dictators. On a formal level, Montoya perfects his fabrication process, using artworks meticulously constructed of banknotes as aesthetic representations of his research and keen observation. In 2016 – 2017, The Great Swindle is reprised as a major institutional show curated by José Luis Falconi at the AMA.
‘History has always fascinated me’, observes Montoya. ‘The psychological approach to history is always of great interest to me: how our behaviour is different depending on the context we live in. How we behave and respond to the world that surrounds us, and the world that others have created, transformed or destroyed.’
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.