A brainchild of art critic Roger Marx, the redesign of French coinage at the end of the nineteenth century aimed to endow citizens with miniature artworks, opening the putatively transactional realm of economics to the qualitative judgments and discursive practices of art criticism. Louis-Oscar Roty’s now-iconic silver coin was far more compatible with the financial industry, where value is realized on and through paper, than its agricultural motif appears to suggest. Far from uniting the nation, art initially functioned as a destabilizing force, upturning long-standing beliefs about the ways images and objects hold value.
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