Cypriot artist who works only with money says it’s cost him a fortune

Artist Andreas Savvas works with actual money and concepts surrounding money in his show at the a.antonopoulos gallery in central Athens. Born in Cyprus in 1970, Savvas studied at the Rena Papaspyrou workshop at the School of Fine Arts and received first prize in the Panhellenic Competition of Art and Technology in 1998 and the Spyropoulou Award in 1999. He has been using money as his basic material since 1995, though this is the first time he is displaying an entire collection of works. «I started working with money long before the advent of the euro,» said Savvas in a recent interview. «My first work was a tapestry of 1,000-drachma banknotes which I made as a student. It was relatively cheap and did not resemble junk art.» His second attempt was another tapestry, created for his graduate project, «only that time it was worth a million drachmas which I had to borrow from friends.» «Thankfully, the Laiki Bank started backing me from then on because my work was very costly and I could not make ends meet,» he says. How did this work? «The bank would lend me a certain sum that I would exchange for banknotes or coins,» Savvas explains. «Imagine how many supermarkets I had to go to to ‘make change.’ One of my works, titled ‘Stepladder’ – which was nominated for the DESTE [Foundation] award – was composed of a million drachmas in 100-drachma coins. And just imagine that 10,000 weighs one kilo!» Savvas uses bank books, PIN numbers, coins and banknotes and frames them in plexiglass, commenting on the concept of money itself. «This series expresses my concern for the way in which money has come to define power, about the value of art and the movement of capital in the art market. My works, though, are definitely a good investment,» says the artist. «They’re made of money and earn interest every year.» His interest in money can be traced to childhood. «My mother used to say that when I was four years old I would plant coins in my garden in Cyprus, convinced they would grow into money trees. But, I did not have a piggy bank.» And Savvas does not seem obsessed with the idea of actually making money. «I would just say that not having money – as I don’t right now – makes it hard to finish many of my works and realize bold ideas,» he explains.Euros are a new challenge for Savvas because «they are smaller, lighter and worth more.»