The Currency of Communism
19 Oct 2017 – 18 Mar 2018
In a society where money isn’t supposed to exist, what do people value, and how is that communicated? Explore these questions and more in a fascinating display in Room 69a.
Bringing together strikingly designed banknotes and coins with posters, advertising and other documents from socialist and post-socialist governed countries, new exhibition The Currency of Communism also explores the ‘shadow economy’ that typically takes root when a national currency is devalued – and where commodities like vodka, glassware and Western goods become powerful objects of trade.
Supported by an Art Fund New Collecting Award, the show’s young curator Tom Hockenhull has acquired a wide variety of artefacts that illuminate a highly nuanced narrative, where money is only half the story – for example, items on display include civilian medals and honours, which became one of several substitutes for monetary reward under the Communist system.
Hockenhull has said that his aim with the exhibition is for visitors to ask themselves what they value, and why. With around 100 items on show, it seems an apt final chapter in this centenary year of the Russian Revolution.
As well as offering insight into the political messages of the time, many of the banknotes boast stunning designs – for example, the 100 and 5,000 dinar notes of Yugoslavia from the early 1950s.