In Kind Exchange

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= moneyless living project by the Russian artist Sergey Balovin


Sergey Balovin:

"In 2010, I moved to Shanghai and rented an empty apartment. I decided to save money and published an announcement that I would make portraits for anyone in exchange for something useful for my apartment. In two months there was everything for my house from candles and dishware to furniture and household appliances. Moreover, I found a mass of new friends and interesting acquaintances. I started to take photographs of all the gifts and to write down stories of people coming to me. So a comical experiment turned into the big project.

I decided to try to refuse money and began to define objects of exchange based on practicality. For travel, I suggested things that can come in handy on my way. I received a backpack and all that was necessary – from matches and a first-aid kit to a compass and a mobile phone. Other objects of an exchange include “food”, “clothes” etc. For “children” people can bring something for orphanages and boarding schools. I make portraits as a fast sketch by ink. For a session – 2-3 drawings are made, and the participant chooses one. The others remain with me. Giving, instead of drawing something utilitarian, the person confirms the importance of the artist’s work. In turn, I, as the artist, emphasize the importance of each participant, representing his or her portrait and history at an exhibition. Some actions of In-Kind Exchange have already taken place in China, Russia and in the Balkans. March of 2011 in Novosibirsk, in the gallery “Nepokorennye,” the first exhibition about the project opened. There was a graphic installation of over a hundred portraits of participants as well as all the photos of gifts of exchange. In preparation for an exhibition of “A portrait for a dinner,” during which all received portraits in exchange for food, I lived in a city for one week without using money. After that I went to the Balkans, and to the subject “food,” I added “housing” for objects of exchange. I paid for everything with only portraits.

On the one hand, In-Kind Exchange experimentally proves that it is possible not only to survive, but also to live very interestingly without using money. On the other hand, the project gives the opportunity for anyone to become the owner of the work of the artist, who is independent on a financial and social status. In 2013 I plan to make a money-free world trip, representing the project in the different countries." (

More Information

"To take part in the project and get your portrait just email me to [email protected] with the theme of “In Kind Exchange” and we will arrange a meeting."