Organization of American States
Secretariat for Hemispheric Affairs
AMA | Art Museum of the Americas

The Great Swindle: Works by Santiago Montoya
at AMA | Art Museum of the Americas, OAS
Washington, D.C.
October 20, 2016 - March 26, 2017
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm

Roundtable with Thomas B.D. Cummins, Dumbarton Oaks; and José Luis Falconi, exhibition curator
Thursday, October 20, 4-5pm

Opening reception: Thursday, October 20, 6-8pm

Washington, DC: The Organization of American States (OAS) AMA | Art Museum of the Americas in collaboration with the Halcyon Gallery, London present The Great Swindle: Works by Santiago Montoya, an exhibition curated by José Luis Falconi as part of AMA’s temporary exhibitions program showcasing contemporary artists of OAS member countries. AMA is part of the OAS’s Secretariat for Hemispheric Affair, and its work is based on the principle that the arts are transformative for individuals and communities, as visual components reflecting the four pillars of the OAS: democracy, human rights, security and development.  

Colombian artist Santiago Montoya (b. 1974) uses paper currency as the base for his work, re-contextualizing one of our most basic and intimate relationships: the relationship with money. Comprised of works that Montoya has made over the last ten years, The Great Swindle exhibition at the OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas represents a sustained examination of the complicated, fluid relationships we have with financial systems. The Great Swindle is also a journey through the artist’s forays into the materiality of paper bills – raising questions and taking positions on our places within financial systems.

Montoya follows a multidisciplinary approach that embraces traditional painting, found objects and video documentary. In carefully structured series, he uses the aesthetics of materials to introduce meaning, resulting in collections where appearance and concept bear equal weight. He comments on a broad swathe of political issues, from conservation and dispossession to the transmission of information, aiming to uncover reality and bring to light the victory of the human spirit over adversity.

Montoya has in recent years turned next to cash money as a theme. The Great Swindle (2007–ongoing) looks at paper money as a platform of political propaganda, exploiting iconic pictures to bolster power and embed imagery in the national consciousness. The series journeys through history exploring iconography and idealism across a cultural spectrum, from model planes and boats inspired by Communist China’s food coupons of the 1950s and 1960s to portraits of fallen dictators. On a formal level, Montoya perfects his fabrication process, using artworks meticulously constructed of banknotes as aesthetic representations of his research and keen observation. In 2016 – 2017, The Great Swindle is reprised as a major institutional show curated by José Luis Falconi at the AMA.

‘History has always fascinated me’, observes Montoya. ‘The psychological approach to history is always of great interest to me: how our behaviour is different depending on the context we live in. How we behave and respond to the world that surrounds us, and the world that others have created, transformed or destroyed.’
AMA is proud to welcome Santiago Montoya’s piece One Man Many People (2011, Paper money on stainless steel) into its permanent collection. Montoya’s piece addresses themes of political violence and human rights, freedom of expression, and democracy. It is a valuable addition to the museum’s collection of modern and contemporary art of OAS member countries, as it promotes core OAS values alongside its cutting-edge visual aesthetic.

AMA promotes the core values of the OAS by providing a space for cultural expression, creativity, and learning, highlighting themes such as democracy, development, human rights, justice, freedom of expression, and innovation.  AMA’s work advances the inter-American agenda, drawing on the arts to showcase a constructive vision of the future of the Americas via local and hemispheric cultural exchange.  This is achieved by showcasing cutting-edge exhibits of artists whose output creatively combine aesthetics with topical social and political issues.

This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the OAS and the Embassy of Colombia in Washington, DC.

Accessibility: AMA’s first floor is wheelchair accessible by a ramp that our security officers install per use, at the back entrance to the museum. There is a gravel pathway leading to the back entrance. There is one half-step leading from the first room into the first-floor galleries. There is a flight of winding stairs leading to the museum’s second floor. Restrooms are located on the second floor. For more information on accessibility, please contact 202 370 0147 or [email protected]