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José León is an emerging Venezuelan artist who has a unique way of creating art. Rather than traditional mediums, León uses currency as the canvas for his pieces that comment on socio-cultural issues and the value of money.

A Moment Of Inspiration

León began his career as a graffiti artist; it was a commission for a mural in 2015 that would set him on a different path. When he received payment for the mural in the form of 2000 Bolívares, he quickly realized that the smaller denominations of the currency were no longer in circulation and therefore had no value. This experience left León feeling frustrated and leading to a ”light-bulb” moment while watching a superhero movie. He explains, “I had an idea, somewhat dull, but brilliant. That was to stamp Marvel characters onto the Bolívares. I chose to do all the lesser-known characters from Marvel because at that time there weren’t any productions portraying them on the big screen.”

León’s project quickly gained popularity and he began receiving media attention and interviews. He considers his artistic style to be influenced by themes of greed, pride, and desperation, and he aims to use his work to comment on socio-cultural issues and the value (or lack thereof) of money. “What I find most attractive about all this is the socio-cultural message that we, the artists of Money Art, are teaching the world; that paper money is just that – paper. I want to challenge the perceived value of money and encourage people to think about the meanings and values behind it. It’s not just about the money itself, but the emotions and values that we attach to it.”

“EVA-01 Evangelion” © José León, 2023

“When we see a big stack of cash, we might feel a sense of power or success. But what happens when we don’t have enough money to pay for basic necessities like food or housing? Suddenly, that stack of cash becomes a source of stress and desperation. By up-cycling currency, I want to highlight the duality of these emotions and encourage people to think about the role that money plays in their lives.”

Whilst José still has a long way to go in his artistic journey, León’s work has received positive feedback: “The biggest feedback I received was a commendation from Theodore Adams III, Hollywood director and president of the Stan Lee Foundation. I have also received recognition from several international artists in the world of rap, hip hop and I have exhibited works in the gallery of the artist Carlos Cruz-Diez in Panama.”

“Mario Bros” © José León, 2023
“La Cara De La Devaluación” © José León, 2020

The Value Of Currency Beyond Its Utilitarian Use

León’s journey as an artist has been one of self-discovery using art to make statements about the world around him. Through his unique approach to working with currency, he has been able to create thought-provoking pieces that encourage viewers to reflect on their own relationship with money and the values that drive it.

By using currency as a medium, León is able to challenge traditional ideas about the value of money and inspire viewers to think more deeply about the role that it plays in their lives. His work is a powerful reminder that money is just a tool – it is up to us to decide how we want to use it and what values we want to attach to it.

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