Irena Lagator Pejović


My Father’s Salary


book-object, a book made of 1,650 devalued banknotes from 1992.

33.4 x 18.5 x 6.5 cm;

Exhibition/Venue: Exhibition/Venue: Irena Lagator Pejović, Expanses of Love, Art Gallery „Nadežda Petrović”, Čačak, Serbia, curated by Patrycja Rylko and Julka Marinković, 2023. 

Courtesy of the artist.

Photo: Ivan Petrović, Irena Lagator Pejović, Milenko Savović


My Father’s Salary is based on personal recollections. The artist received a large number of notes as a gift from her father, which lost their value during the former Yugoslavia’s hyperinflationary economic crisis in the 1990s. Giving, receiving, and exchanging demonstrate how money notes later evolved into priceless pieces of art with symbolic value as well as sentimental family heirlooms, illustrating a transition between the private and public realms. (Patrycja Ryłko)



The work points at the two-years’ period of hyperinflation between 1992 and 1994 in Yugoslavia, the third longest in the history of mankind, and whose devastating consequences are unheard of in economic history. People were waiting in long lines to obtain 1kg of bread or 1l of milk. The prices doubled every 16 hours. The more zeros on the banknotes, the less they were worth. It was a crescendo of economic breakdown. 


In the late 1993, at the peak of hyperinflation, the National Bank of the FRY issued a bill of 500 billion dinars portraying the poet Jovan Jovanović Zmaj (1833-1904). How interesting this parallel is between the rise of industrialization when the poet lived and billions that hundred years later could only be observed.


Fifteen years later, I received a birthday gift from my father. It was a full paper bag of something that he explained in a specific manner: “When you were 17, I could not afford you anything with this, but maybe now as an artist, you can do something with it.”


When I started researching about those banknotes, I realized that the only female appearance among the influential and very prominent male artists, scientists, and politicians was an anonymous girl. As an artist myself, I could not avoid wondering about the role of an artist in social reality and about the role of an artist portrayed on the banknote, about the real and the representational. In the society of suffering, it becomes obvious that the reality is immeasurably more present than highlighting the achievements of art, science, and politics on the banknotes. Representation of prominences remains repressed in comparison to a hope for reality different from the existing one, and to the shortages of elementary goods for survival. Therefore, a question is raised of when the art is more effective, when applied as a matter of fact, or as an act that works like, why not, inflation of love.


If inflation as a word comes from the Latin word “inflatio”, which means expansion, then the gifted banknotes bound in a book can be understood as an art of valuing what already exists, but also a reminder that the phenomena of harmful emissions exist in all kinds and forms, even as emissions of money. (Irena Lagator Pejović)