An international Naples-born artist creates a new currency to be used exclusively in the city of Malaga
This week, surrounded by soft and sombre aqua-tinted prints, I found myself a stone’s throw from the San Juan Iglesia in the only etching studio in Andalucía, the Gravura Taller de Grabado.
Accompanied by the director of the studio, Mariana Martín, I was treated by Valerio Gentile to participating in a print-making demonstration as well as a full insider’s explanation of the latest exciting art movement to hit Malaga, the ‘Valerio’.
Having recently moved from Calle Granada to the studio, the artist is continuing work on his project within the Valerio Arduino Gentile Arts Trust.
As I sat sipping lemongrass tea, Valerio told me in a melange of Italian, Spanish and English of his travels in India, Egypt, Britain (to name but a few places), before showing me to the printing room.
Using the ‘gravado’ technique (pictured above), Valerio carefully etches a mirror image of his note into a copper plate with a pen-like tool, then washing the plate with paint and removing the excess to leave a sheen, after which the plate is passed through a printing press with paper to produce the prints.
The ‘Valerio’ is a form of tender exclusively used in Malaga, designed, named and handmade by the artist himself to be bartered for specific types of goods and services.
Though it cannot be exchanged for other currencies, Valerio expressed that in an effort to try and support the art community, his ‘money’ can be traded for other works of art.
As I watched him prepare the demonstration, the 41-year-old told me of how he has pondered money’s true value from a young age. For him, the main intent of all art is to move, or to provoke a reaction. In the same way, money is also a driving force of movement, which is why Valerio has fused the two to form ‘art-currency’.
A number of community members are involved in the movement;on stopping by the well-known café ‘El Último Mono’ on my way home and mentioning Valerio’s work whilst chatting to a staff-member, he even had a note of his own to show me. The businesses who can trade in Valerio’s tender , however, must fulfil certain criteria.
Organisations involved are given the privilege of deciding the value of the ‘money’, but are also compelled to use it only in a ‘wholesome’ way.Solely local, independent businesses supporting work that is ecologically friendly or promoting art can adhere to the group, the idea being to support the local community,to help artists and to care for the environment.
Valerio also alluded to starting the project partially out of curiosity and the desire to explore the relationship between power and responsibility, the meaning of monetary value and whether it can still equate to that of skill or time.
What makes this movement more special is that the notes themselves have true worth; their production requires skill and time. They are literally works of art; the surreal, contorted, bulls and distorted birds depicted on the notes, are all devised and hand-drawn by the artist himself.
After asking where I could spend my ‘Valerios’, he admitted being taken aback by the response received, and that many businesses providing the likes of yoga classes or goods like second-hand clothes had also jumped on board the project.
Perhaps the prospect of bartering goods and services again would be taking a step backwards for some;for others, the notion is simply too idealistic nowadays. That said, maybe rather than spending in codes and plastic at a time when materialism is endemic, it may be worth remembering the real value of our work.