Artist Reserve Note
Artist Reserve Note
Artist Reserve Note
Artist Reserve Note
Artist Reserve Note

Artist Reserve Note

April 2009

Printed notes, money bands. Created by Joseph Gray and Peter Nelson as part of the Art Department at the University of Washington's annual Strange Coupling exhibition at Ouch My Eye Gallery.

conceptualism currency economics

A conceptual art currency by Joseph Gray and Peter Nelson.The Artist Reserve Note is designed to be used by an Artist as currency, particularly when no other funds are available. The Artist creates the value of the currency by drawing, painting, printing or otherwise ornamenting the blank reverse side of the Note. The value of the Note is not fixed, but rather becomes the value of the Art that is rendered upon it. Artist Reserve Note exists in the environment of a failing economy and the attempted solution of “stimulus” to the US, paid for with money that does not yet exist. The Artist Note attempts to create its own form of stimulus by providing artists with a currency whose value is created by the work the Artist adds to the physical currency itself.

Project website:

These Artist Reserve Notes was made available for sale for $5.00 US in packs of twenty-five (25) notes. These packs are labeled with $500 money bands, suggesting the value-growth potential of Artist Notes.

The initial run of Notes will be available at Ouch My Eye Gallery in Seattle as part of the annual Strange Coupling project. More information can be found at the bottom of this page.


Complementary Currencies have existed in many practical forms for centuries. Artists as well have found ways to use their own art as payment for goods and services. There are many notable artist made currencies in a variety of contexts, both historical and contemporary.

Marcel Duchamp’s Monte Carlo Bonds
“A parody of a financial document in a system for playing roulette, this Readymade revolves around the idea of monetary transactions. Giving himself the position of Administrator, Marcel Duchamp conceived of a joint stock company designed to raise 15,000 francs and thus “break the bank in Monte Carlo” (Sheets 38). It was to be divided into 30 numbered bonds for which Duchamp asked 500 francs each. However, less than eight were actually assembled.

Tenino Wooden Money
“Some samples of “slice wood”, a new printing material, had been received from Albert Balch of Seattle, who was promoting it for Christmas cards and other items. This was made in a special machine at Aberdeen by a man named Eckersley. Sitka Spruce and Port Orford and red cedar were used. The first pieces were flimsy sheets of 1/80th of an inch thick. The 25 on hand were sufficient to put Tenino in the wooden money business.

Free Lunch: Picasso vs. Rockefeller
“At the end of a fine meal, Picasso reach for the bill, ‘Let me pay. I’ll write a personal check, draw a few squiggles, and sign it. The manager won’t ever cash it. She will display it as a work of art. And we’ll have a free lunch.

Ithaca Hours
“Ithaca Hours is a local currency system that promotes local economic strength and community self-reliance in ways which will support economic and social justice, ecology, community participation and human aspirations in and around Ithaca, New York. Ithaca Hours help to keep money local, building the Ithaca economy.

Fluxus Bucks
“In the 90’s Julie Paquette “ex posto facto” started the fluxus buck movement. Fluxus Bucks are amazing, unique creations using stamps of “dollar bills” as a background for art. Fluxus Bucks are traded around the world. (…) Fluxus bucks are shared in the mail and traded on the street. Fluxus Bucks can never be printed in vast quantities like dollars so they never lose their value.

Complementary Currency
“Complementary currency (CC) is a currency which is meant to be used as a complement to a national currency. Complementary currency is sometimes referred to as complementary community currency (CCC) or as community currency. The term local currency, describing a complementary currency which is limited to a single locality, is sometimes used interchangeably with complementary currency. There are, however, some complementary currencies which are regional or global, such as the WIR or Friendly Favors, or the proposed Terra Currency.

Legal Tender
“The U.S. Constitution, Art. I Sec. 10 Cl. 1, states, in part:

No State shall … coin Money; emit Bills of Credit;
make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; …

In 1798, Vice President Thomas Jefferson wrote that the federal government has no power ‘of making paper money or anything else a legal tender,’ and he advocated a constitutional amendment to enforce this principle by denying the federal government the power to borrow.

“The United States Supreme Court ruled the practice unconstitutional in Hepburn v. Griswold in 1870, but later reversed this decision following the appointment of two new judges by President Ulysses S Grant. The Court held that paper money, even that not backed by species such as the United States Notes can be legal tender, in the Legal Tender Cases, ranging from 1871 to 1884.


The printing of these Notes was in conjunction with the annual Strange Coupling exhibition. Strange Coupling is a project organized by masters degree candidates in the Art Department at the University of Washington. Working artists from the community are paired with a masters candidate at UW based on aesthetic commonalities.