• 03.18.13

Ornate Portrait Mash-Ups Made From Money

Like a banker’s version of Exquisite Corpse, these tiny sculptures match national icons in surprising ways.

The pencil moustache of Yusof bin Ishak below the curls of Queen Elizabeth. The eyes of Pope John Paul II above the mutton chops of a South American president. Chairman Mao wearing the 10-gallon hat of Cuban revolutionary Camilo Cienfuegos.


The Seven Mercenaries, by French artist Philippe Pétremant, is a series of portraits cobbled together from international banknotes. The 36-year-old Pétremant uses complicated origami folds and humble paper clips to keep the tiny sculptures in place, then photographs them for posterity. The large-format prints are on view this month at the Festival Circulation(s) in Paris.

On the one hand, Seven Mercenaries is a meditation on the universal power of the global economy, which transcends figureheads and political symbolism. On the other, there’s a definite aesthetic grace to each image. Ornate security threads, gradient colors, and microtext holographs are expertly woven into riotous patterns–aside from the semiotics of art made from money, these are simply beautiful objects.

Check out Pétremant’s work at the Festival Circulation(s) in Paris until March 31.

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.