Málaga based artist, Valerio Arduino Gentile, has contemplated the power of money for much of his life.
The Naples-born eccentric confesses ultimately it is all too often money, which enables people to impact the world.
“So, I thought to myself, why can I not make my own currency? A currency that cannot be spent on weapons or on drugs or prostitutes, but only on art and nature.” Says Gentile from his Zen perspective.
“Art is provocative – that is to say it causes action. As is the case with money – it is a creation that moves things and the majority of people have a hate relationship with money as it is not easy to get and so this sits negatively with them.”
Gentile’s novel art-currency, unabashedly named the ‘Valerio’, is an idea he has pondered over for sometime: to create a trading system in the margins of capitalist logic.
I visited Gentile, who I met four years ago, to discover his pastel coloured notes, ‘Valerios’, circulating within the Málaga art community.
He has since moved his gallery, Valerio Arduino Gentile Art’s Trust, from calle Granada to calle Convalecientes and lives in the gallery along with architect Jose Eduardo Trujillo Prieto – the pair have plans to develop the space together.
The ‘Valerio’ is indeed gaining momentum, although only local, independent businesses that are ecologically sustainable or promote art are encouraged to partake – the idea being to nurture the local community, artists and the environment.
One ‘Valerio’ is equivalent to one euro and Gentile has printed 1,150 notes, which cannot be purchased; they are acquired after accepting payment in ‘Valerios’ instead of euros.
‘Valerios’ are to be bartered for goods and services; they may not be exchanged for another currency.
Already within Málaga yoga, tai chi and tango teachers as well as second-hand clothing, bicycle and camera stores accept payment in ‘Valerios’ – and not to forget local artists of course.
Gentile points out that art and money have two common characteristics: both are “recognizable”, just as a painting of Picasso is unmistakably Picasso and both cannot be “reproduced”, just as money (for the most part) cannot be counterfeited.
Each ‘Valerio’ is in itself a work of art – a tangible representation of precision, dedication and artistic merit.
The notes are adorned with obscure birds, surreal cows, expressive portraits – all original characters and illustrations of Gentile.
He accurately etches a mirror image of his designs onto a copper plate using a sharp, pen-like tool.
The plate is then washed with paint, which has a polishing effect, then put through a printing press with paper and is finished with a seal of approval- the artist’s fingerprint and signature.
He gave me this turquoise gem for good measure:
In an age of materialism, plastic and codes it is uplifting to see someone tamper with the power of money and disrupt it’s usual unbridled consumerism.
Whether the notion is too idealistic for your reality or not, it makes us think about the value of craftsmanship and sustaining two of the world’s treasures: art and nature.
Life often shows us how money does not buy happiness, but at least with ‘Valerios’ you can support the arts.