The last taboo

Money and value

Art exhibition on the subject of money

In an exhibition pavilion made of gold, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) shreds banknotes and invites visitors to gamble on the one-armed bandit. In other words, the SNB is provoking, which is hardly its style. It has given the curator of the exhibition, Harald Szeemann, a free hand, because it wants to trigger a lively discussion.

An anecdote: an admirer of Brigitte Bardot paid FF 52,000 for a pair of her French star's panties! "We always and everywhere strive for the absolute and yet always find only things," wrote Novalis, the German Romantic poet. His quote could be the common thread of this exhibition, even if our own relationship to money seems somewhat less anecdotal. This is about the purchasing power of money, about amounts of money, about easily earned money. It is also about unpaid work, about anti-capitalist artists, about solidarity, about "the priceless" - the quote by Novalis fits everything. With this in mind, we turn to the exhibition.

A pavilion made of gold

The SNB pavilion is an oversized gold bar - covered with real gold! 1'730 square metres with 150 gold foils each, a total of two to three kilos of the precious metal. There are only a few craftsmen who still know how to strike gold. The value of their work on this pavilion will far exceed that of the gold used.

Incidentally, exhibition visitors are allowed to scrape gold off the façade in the area of the front façade between the entrance and exit: theft is permitted! The gold flakes are barely 1/100 mm thick. So you won't get rich.


Visitors won't get rich at the slot machines either. Their gain: the food for thought that this interactive and creative artistic project will give them. And as for the money-destroying machine, it will ceremoniously cut twenty to thirty million francs to shreds for all to see during the course of the Expo. Two to three banknotes per minute will thus come to an ironic end - ironic because the production value of these earth-shattering paper notes is a mere thirty centimes per piece. Harald Szeemann emphasises this other aspect: he wants to show money from its worthless side and at the same time highlight those treasures whose value is immeasurable.

29.08.2002: Media release - Gold plate auction


Visitor capacity per day

Total visitors

Swiss National Bank, Berne 

Concept, scenography
Harald Szeemann

IAAG Architekten, Berne 

Communication, operation
Tröhler + Partner (Jürg Tröhler, Brigitte Morgenthaler), Berne

Project management
Nüssli Special Events AG (Ivo Haldner), Hüttwilen 

Herzog Bau und Holzbau AG, Berne

Coaching Expo.02
Pidu Russek (Head)
Dogan Firuzbay
Fabian Meier

Operations management
Thomas Oczipka (Pavilion Manager)
Richard Hermoso (Operations Manager)

Ariane Güngerich, Charlotte Hasler, Rachel Perrin, Jana Stauffer

Photos: Press kit Geld und Wert; DVD Generation.02; © Nüssli (Schweiz) AG, Hüttwilen,; © Jürg Frei; © Andreas Mosimann; © Michael Studt; © Philipp Zanatta; © Archiv Ralph Ammann