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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Cash crop



Fiona Hall


1953 -


'Cash Crop' consists of a vitrine filled with little sculptures of fruit and vegetables carved from a variety of natural soaps. These pieces of 'fruit' are accompanied by labels and painted bank notes. The terms appearing on the labels are taken from the language of economic activity. The juxtapositions are both amusing and sharply critical: 'liquid asset' is a grape; 'share market float' is a lotus; 'tax return' is a peanut; 'global liquidity' is a cola nut.

In 'Cash Crop', Fiona Hall explores the connections between trade, natural resources and botany. These concerns have been central to Hall's body of work since the 1970s. Soap is destroyed by water: it is ephemeral and changing. Commerce and trade, too, change with the slides in 'global liquidity'. Botany, like trade, is a system: of classification and collection. Botany is a science developed in order to 'collect' the world of nature. Cash Crop is about the exploitation of natural resources for commercial interests and the artifice of classification.

Julie Ewington writes, "Sir Joseph Banks created elaborate cabinets for the exploration voyages of James Cook, in which numerous specimens of plants were taken back to England, studied, dissected, analysed and planted. Later, the economic uses of collected plants were investigated, for medicine, cosmetics, prophylactics and profit... Fiona Hall has selectively emphasised the tendency towards conjoined terms in systems of Western classification. This is not a merely whimsical rubbing together of similarities, differences, binaries: it is a purposeful play between different orders of things, set up to embrace, pull apart, to slip and to slide".





Media category


Materials used

80 carved soap, painted bank notes in a vitrine


174.0 x 132.2 x 57.2 cm approx. overall :

cccc - vitrine/ stand, 114 x 130.3 x 54.2 cm, vitrine

cccc - vitrine/ stand, 60 x 132.2 x 57.2 cm, plinth

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2000


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Fiona Hall

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 10 publications


Natasha Bullock, Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, 'Landscape, mapping, nature', pg.290-331, Sydney, 2006, 310, 311 (colour illus.).

Laura Murray Cree, Art and Australia (Vol. 37, No. 4), 'Something of value: An interview with Tony Palmer', pg. 580-589, Sydney, Jun 2000-Aug 2000, 582, 583 (colour illus.), 587.

Julie Ewington, Fiona Hall, 'Contemporary vernaculars', pg.124-153, Annandale, 2005, 142, 143 (colour illus.). illustration is a detail

Julie Ewington, Artlink [vol. 19, no. 4], 'Cash Crop', pg.41-43, Henley Beach, Dec 1999, cover (colour illus.), 41 (illus.), 42-43 (colour illus.), 41-43. all 3 illustrations are details

Institute of Modern Art (Organiser), Cash Crop, Brisbane, 1998.

Timothy Morrell, Eyeline, 'Fiona Hall: Cash Crop', Brisbane, Summer 1998-1999, 38 (illus.). illustration is a detail

Timothy Morrell, Art Monthly Australia, 'Fiona Hall: Cash crop', pg.4-5, Canberra, Nov 1999, inside cover (illus.), back cover (colour illus.), 5 (illus.), 4-5. all 3 illustrations are details

Sebastian Smee, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Concepts take root', Sydney, 05 Oct 1999. Review in 'The galleries' section

Russell Storer, Federation: Australian art and society 1901-2001, 'Leaf litter', pg. 211, Canberra, 2000, 211.

Andrew Frost (Chief writer), Australian art collector, 'Australia's 50 most collectable artists', pg.59-96, Sydney, Jan 2000-Mar 2000, 70 (colour illus.). illustration is a detail