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According to a recent report in the International Herald Tribune (“Rise of the Super-Rich Hits a Sobering Wall”, August 20, 2009), the wealthy are not spending their money on luxuries anymore.

Citing the Mei Moses Index, an indicator that tracks the price of art, the newspaper reported that spending on art has dropped 32% in the last six months. Locally, this slowdown in luxury consumption has prompted the closure of two prominent contemporary art galleries, in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Recognising the need for relief, and following the example of central bankers worldwide, Art South Africa is printing new money, which it will be giving away for free. While the new artist-designed currency will not buy you coffee, let alone pay off any pressing debts, it will guide you to the award-winning quarterly magazine. The latest Spring 2009 issue includes a detailed feature article on South Africa’s burgeoning secondary market for art, by art historian Rory Bester. Avavilable in only one denomination, “80 Bucks” – a pointer to the magazine’s R80 cover price – the Art South Africa Banknote Campaign features the contributions of four exciting young artists: Bison, Faith47, Senyol and Wesley van Eeden. The banknote flyers, which mimic the look and feel of actual currency, will be circulated at targeted art events nationally. The Banknote Campaign, which launched at a private function celebrating the magazine’s seventh birthday, held at wine estate Glen Carlou on September 5, is a three-way collaboration between advertising agency Young & Rubicam, Cape Town; creative art agency Word of Art; and Art South Africa magazine. To coincide with the launch of this guerrilla marketing campaign, which also includes a series of street posters featuring the banknotes, Art South Africa, in association with Word of Art, is offering limited edition collectable prints featuring the banknote designs. The prints, limited to 50 each and individually signed, are priced at R999. “Art South Africa” has traditionally taken a very restrained approach to self-promotion, allowing word of mouth to guide the magazine to new readers,” says Art South Africa editor, Sean O’Toole. “For our seventh birthday issue, a milestone in many ways for a niche media title such as this, we decided to look to Cape Town’s unheralded creative talent for inspiration and help.”

The Banknote Campaign follows on an earlier collaboration between Art South Africa and Young & Rubicam, Cape Town, who in December 2008 devised a poster asking passersby to drop off illegal firearms at a police station. The campaign coincided with an issue of the magazine focussing on the “Awuleth’ Umshini Wami” song popularised by President Jacob Zuma. Says Art South Africa‘s publisher, Brendon Bell-Roberts: “I think the Banknote Campaign will energise the magazine’s existing brand profile, while also break down some of the antagonisms towards street art amongst high art purists.”

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