Igor Arinich is known as the “Money Artist”in his home country of Belarus. He earned that nicknamed after he became famous for creating intricate collages made exclusively from old Soviet banknotes.
He is not the only artist in the world who uses money as his main medium. In fact, he started doing it himself after seeing the works of an American artist who made dollar collages, and he knows of another Russian artist who makes art from modern Rubles. But after trying to imitate them by using modern Belarusian currency, and euros, he realized none of today’s banknotes are as beautiful and colorful as old Soviet bills. So he began visiting flee markets in his city of Minsk, buying every Soviet banknote he could find, dating from 1961 to 1991. It all started as a hobby, but after people became interested in his craft, he decided to become a professional artist. Although he doesn’t want to reveal the number of money collages he has sold so far, Arinich says he charges between $700 and $2000 for his unique artworks, and many of them are sold abroad.
About his money art, Igor says it’s not as time consuming as actually finding the old Soviet banknotes. They’re not as easy to source as they used to be, and considering he needs up to 3,000 of them for a single project, in different denominations, getting them at a reasonable price can be a challenge. After he has sourced all the material he needs, Arinich can spend between a couple of months to half a year carving the banknotes and combining the pieces to create his intricate paper mosaics. He usually draws a sketch on a plywood canvas and sticks the money pieces in place, like a puzzle, using a special glue. The “Bathing of a Red Horse” his largest, most impressive piece yet. It’s made up of around 3,000 Soviet rubles and is priced at $2,000.
It would definitely be easier for him to work with newer banknotes, but Igor Arinich simply refuses to. He says green dollars and euros are too bland, while the colorful old Soviet rubles are so much more picturesque and easier to work with. Plus, the nostalgia of the past in itself is a big part of his art. His collection of money collages includes reproductions of classic Russian artworks, as well as portraits of Lenin or Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
Photos © Igor Arinich