If you've always wanted to step inside a high-security bank vault, you won't want to miss curatorial non-profit No Longer Empty's latest exhibition in Queens. Called “How Much Do I Owe You?”, the installation transforms the long-vacant ground floor of the Bank of Manhattan Building in Long Island City into an art space exploring currency, value and exchange. Inspired by the concept that money is a language understood by all, 26 artists from 15 countries were invited to create art pieces in the bank’s lobby, teller areas, vaults and balconies.
Built in 1924, the Bank of Manhattan Building was the tallest structure in Queens until 1990 (you may have noticed its clock tower rising over Queens Plaza). The “How Much Do I Owe You?” exhibition brings currency back to the building, which was the bank’s headquarters until it moved into Manhattan.
The sprawling double-height lobby has been enlivened with art works made from the colorful repurposed currency notes of the world. Visitors are greeted by a plexiglass box swirling with butterflies cut from paper currency which move on their own through ventilator gusts. Ghost of a Dream’s oversized “The Price of Happiness” dominates the right wall of the room. Upon closer investigation, visitors will find that the bright-patterned wall is actually made from losing lottery tickets and outdated bank notes that have been given a new purpose after being rendered worthless.
Guests can also draw their own “fundred” dollar bills, which No Long Empty hopes to exchange for cultural funding dollars. The once prohibited areas of the bank are also open for exploration, including a sound and video installation in the balcony rafters that reveal the original Corinthian columns that were covered up by a 1980s renovation. Visitors can even explore the original 1920s vaults, which have each been transformed into individual installations.
The incredibly expansive exhibition is on view until March 13th, and includes an ongoing calendar of free events, tours and workshops.