Show Me the Money: The Image of Finance at the People’s History Museum

Polly Checkland Harding

The People’s History Museum’s latest exhibition took us by surprise – this in pictures review explains why.

On the face of it, finance isn’t the most thrilling focus for an exhibition. How do you represent complex economics in a visually interesting way? Partly by acknowledging how daunting the subject is, as it turns out; Simon Roberts’ Credit Crunch Lexicon, a new commission for Show Me the Money: The Image of Finance, collates the most common financial terms used since the recession hit in 2008 into a continuous, capitalised, floor to ceiling block of words that’s almost impossible to read. Cornford & Cross’ Black Narcissus, meanwhile, makes a decade of FTSE peaks and troughs into a literal mountain range. But what Show Me the Money does most successfully is to showcase art as a powerful tool for understanding.

“Daddy, why’s that man injecting himself with money?”

The work on show does represent the ins and outs of finance in an engaging way, but you’d be mistaken if you thought it was a neutral depiction. Instead, Show Me the Money offers a range of reactions. So, from Peter Fluck’s caricatures satirising inflation (if you’ve got kids, maybe steer them away from this bit – or be prepared to answer questions like “Daddy, why’s that man injecting himself with money?”) to Immo Klink’s huge print The Real Fight Club, in which a banker at a regular social gathering snarls at the camera (getting pumped before actual fist fights that would take place after dinner), the exhibition demonstrates both economic realities, and a take on the impact they have.

Stretching right back to prints by William Hogarth examining the financial crisis of 1720, through to recent works, there’s a consistent suspicion around how finance is handled, and who holds the power. Art, then, becomes a tool through which inequality, corruption and crisis can be grasped. “Our society is dominated by the idea and the reality of the financial markets,” says Dr Chris Burgess, curator at the PHM. “These artistic responses to that reality get to the heart of a system that appears distant but has a significant impact on all our lives.”

With economic policies driving the current government’s agenda, grappling with this reality feels ever more urgent. And if that isn’t incentive enough, how about this: on one wall of the exhibition is an unassuming cash point. There’s no slot to insert your card – instead, it puts out a £5 note at a random point throughout the day. Art at its most altruistic, no?

Photo of a banker snarling at the camera

IMG_3612

Credit Crunch Lexicon by Simon Roberts

Photo montage of traders with their hands on their heads

Quilt made from lottery tickets

Range of financial cartoons

Computers at Merrill Lynch

Barclays ledger

Culture Guides

Stella at Waterside

Families

Design the playground of your dreams, witness giant outdoor spectaculars and meet Stella a Star Engineer.

Writer Jenn Ashworth. Photo by Martin Figura

Literature

There’s a definite spring in the old live literature step as our diaries fill up for the coming months with plenty of prose and poetry, creative nonfiction and memoir. Outlook good…

Music

From legends of the electronic underground to rising voices in jazz, this month’s music guide is a real melting pot.

Theatre in Manchester and the North

Theatre

Birmingham Royal Ballet, Manchester’s Yang Sing and Northern wrestling all feature in our eclectic theatre guide this month.

Food and Drink in Manchester and the North

Discover the best food and drink that the North has to offer in our expert guide to food and drink in Manchester and beyond.

Cinema

There’s a focus on awards season, female filmmakers and a splash of spookiness in our latest Cinema Guide.

Exhibitions in Manchester and the north

Exhibitions

Fairy tales, contemporary dance and the mysteries of the night sky all feature as themes among this month’s pick of exhibition highlights from across the north.

Tours and Activities

Challenge yourself to take on Manchester’s immersive games in this month guide, alongside some historical tours and one-off experiences.