Five exhibitions about money and materialism

  • 22 November 2016

As Black Friday hits, instead of rushing to the shops, why not go to an exhibition and reflect on our relationship with money and materialism. Here are five current shows that deal with our fascination with the green stuff.

Grayson Perry, The Adoration of the Cage Fighters, 2012 Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London, © Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry, The Adoration of the Cage Fighters, 2012


Defacing the Past: Damnation and Desecration in Imperial Rome

In imperial Rome, money was used to demonstrate the power of the state. Roman coins were imprinted with the likeness of the Emperor to signify his absolute authority. This fascinating exhibition at the British Museum looks at how some Roman citizens rebelled against the system. Their chosen method was to deface coins - an act that later spread to engravings and sculpture. In doing so, they were attempting to undermine existing rulers and condemn the memory of former ones, using the very money in their pockets to spread dissent and disenchantment.


Warrior Treasures: Saxon Gold from the Staffordshire Hoard

This stunning Anglo-Saxon hoard was unearthed near Lichfield in 2009 and is the most valuable treasure ever discovered on British soil. It’s reckoned that most of the objects were acquired in battle. It seems the connection between the desire for material goods and wealth and status was alive and well back in 5th century England. In 2010 we launched an appeal to raise the £3.3m needed to save the hoard for the nation and keep in the west Midlands for everyone to see. This travelling exhibition features 100 items for the public to savour and is the first time many of these have been on display.


Feeding the 400

The establishment of The Foundling Hospital in 1739 marked a sea change in society’s treatment of vulnerable children. Here, orphans found some respite from the harsh social and economic realities of 18th century life. This exhibition focuses on the food the children ate and reveals a connection not only to questions of economy, nutrition and health, but also to the beliefs and science that informed what the children were fed and the physical and psychological impact. And to really bring things to life, a newly commissioned audio work features sounds from the hospital's dining rooms, allowing visitors to relive the experience of what it was like to eat there.


The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined

Fashion has had a long connection with wealth, power and status. Today, it’s still the focus of our shopping habits, as we try to keep up with the latest trends. This exhibition looks at fashion’s obsession with conspicuous excess and features 120 exhibits from the Renaissance to the present day. It explores changing notions of acceptable taste, from ostentatious 18th century overskirts to John Galliano’s risqué interpretations of Holbein-esque nobility, demonstrating that extravagance has always been at the heart of fashion, whether at court or on the catwalk.


Grayson Perry: The Vanity of Small Differences

Taking his inspiration from Hogarth’s famous A Rake’s Progress, Grayson Perry’s bravura tapestries take on us on a journey through the class structure of modern Britain, from Sunderland to The Cotswolds. With his deep interest in the politics of consumerism and identity, this brilliant work shows us a country where class and entrenched barriers to social mobility still determine the future of many, and a world where what you have often reflects how you’re perceived. See it now in Canterbury and be amazed.

Tags: ExhibitionsGreat days outWhat to see