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

Cinema

Indian independent cinema, shadowy film noir, cult queer classics and trip under the sea. Film fans are spoilt for choice this month.

Exhibitions in Manchester and across the North

Exhibitions

Like the 58th Venice Biennale which opened earlier this May, our latest pick of exhibitions across the north also has a strong ecological bent.

Digital Dimensions at Eureka! Children playing in digital dimensions with light pillars

Families

Avoid the post summer holiday blues with our latest top picks of family things to do. Enjoy some quality family time together this autumn.

Artist Dan Berry and writer David Gaffney.

Literature

The books are back in September with one-off reading events, some much-anticipated launches and the return of the Northern Lights Writers’ Conference as we gear up for Manchester Literature Festival in October.

Music

Manchester’s Autumn months are always chock-a-block with great gigs, and this year is no exception.

Theatre in Manchester

Theatre

The English National Ballet, Emma Rice’s Wise Children, Liverpool’s LEAP Dance Festival and much more feature in our new theatre guide.

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.

Tours and Activities

Tours and Activities

Explore the mindful tours and activities Manchester has to offer in this month’s Tours and Activities guide.