A temporary artwork on Old Tide Mill School, Frankham Street, London, commissioned by Deptford X
Hew Locke has for several years been drawn to the beauty of paper share certificates, banknotes and other documents. His long-standing interest in architecture means that the buildings of Deptford, their constant flux and changes of use relating to the financial environment, are an ideal stage for this installation.
Fine engravings of gods and goddesses, happy workers, new technology or expansive landscapes and factories decorate and beautify these papers. Newborn companies garlanded their shares with confident typography and classical motifs implying stability and worth. The classical motifs disguise the fact that some of these companies had not even started trading yet, or needed to raise extra funds.
Comparisons or parallels between recent and more distant histories are pointed up – for example the Chinese Imperial Gold Loan certificate harks back to a time when Imperial China looked to raise funds from Europe (interestingly, this loan was arranged by the Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation - HSBC). Next to this is the Compagnie Impériale des Chemins de Fer Éthiopiens, founded in France in 1894 under a royal charter from Emperor Menelek II to build and operate a railway across Ethiopia. The firm failed when political discord and a lack of investment halted construction. In 2010 China started construction on Ethiopia's new rail system.
Though often searching for a specific company share, the serendipitous find of an evocative name or vignette can also be enough to attract Locke’s attention.
Below - details of Gold Standard