The art of making money: a creative alternative to currency

A new concept enables registered artists to pay for goods and services with their work.

It’s surprising how willing people are to accept art instead of money,” Lars Kraemmer recalled about a road-trip from Canada to Mexico on which he didn’t spend a single cent.

Instead the Dane painted pieces of art that he used to pay for food, accommodation and whatever else he needed, including even a used motorcycle.

This and other trips were the foundation for a business plan that led to him launching Art Money.

As old as humankind
“I had no money,” explained Kraemmer. “All I wanted to do was to paint and enjoy life. I had to think of an alternative to support myself and my art.”

The first thing Kraemmer bought in exchange for his art was a CD, the second thing was a house, or rather the materials with which he built it. “I paid for it with a suitcase full of my paintings,” he confessed.

Together with an impressed friend they founded Art Money: a currency consisting of handmade works of art by people who have joined the movement – always in a 12×18 cm format at a fixed value of   200 

“The concept of exchanging art for goods and services is as old as humankind and the value of art is recognised by all people. Art Money simply introduces a system that unites format and value to make exchange easy, fun and beautiful.”

Dar es Salaam to Denmark
One of the most inspiring stories is the example of Otto Mlanda from Tanzania.

Mlanda started making Art Money using banana leaves and glue sourced from acacias and miombo trees. He swapped his art for a used computer and with the support of Kraemmer he was able to build up enough financial means to start his own business: bush walk tours to tourists.

Demonstrating how international Art Money has already become, Mlanda’s art can be seen hanging on the wall of a Copenhagen hotel.

Half-board at hotel
As the first hotel to join the Art Money community, the Ibsen Hotel in Copenhagen, which is part of Arthur Hotels, accepts up to 50 percent of the payment for overnight stays. The nicest pieces are kept and hung up.

“As a well-established business, it’s great to be able to be part of something that helps individuals such as Mlanda,” explained Kristen Brøchner, the CEO of Arthur Hotels, holding up a framed piece of Mlanda’s work.

“This one isn’t for sale”, she smiled as she returned it to the wall in the hotel lobby.

“When we renovated our hotel I wanted to involve our street in all our interior design. Every piece of furniture and art or decoration has a different story to tell. When I became acquainted with the concept of Art Money, I knew it would fit the hotel’s concept well.”

Helping good causes
Art Money has the advantage of being a currency that does not fluctuate in value from country to country.

“We don’t see the need to devalue the work of people who live in poorer countries, as some companies tend to think is reasonable,” said Kraemmer.

For example, Art Money has spread to India where MR Manohar is financing a home for handicapped kids with some of the proceeds.

“It’s also a great means for homeless people,” Kraemmer explained, who gave a talk about creating Art Money and its possibilities at a homeless centre recently.

Growing quickly
Thanks to the internet the art project has grown bigger and faster than Kraemmer had anticipated.

“As a movement it has grown since we joined,” said Brøchner.

“I’d really like to see more shops join that are useful to our hotel – like a beekeeper who could offer us honey or an orchard selling us apples by accepting a percentage of our payment in Art Money.”

And there is also the potential to move outside art. After all, Honey Money has a nice ring to it.


Art Money factfile:

Artists can register at for a yearly fee of 365 kroner

Businesses can register for free. Purchased Art Money pieces can be displayed or sold on

Art Money is recognised by the Danish tax authorities and poses no complications to businesses accepting it.

Businesses who accept Art Money payments advertise via stickers on entrances, much like those for Visa or American Express.

Collectors are already seeking out Art Money as it can often be worth more than its 200kr fixed price.

There have already been exhibitions of the works without any involvement of Kraemmer himself.

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