Andy Warhol Dollar Sign (F & S II.274 - 279)Facts | History | Meaning
Catalogue Title Dollar Sign (F & S II.274 - 279) Year 1982 Size 40″ x 32″ 101,6 cm x 81,3 Medium Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board Edition Portfolio of 2. Edition of 35, 10 AP, 2 PP. Signed and numbered in pencil. Each print is unique.
Andy Warhol Dollar Sign (F & S II.274 - 279)Meaning & History
"The dollar sign is at once distinctively American and global, with America being a powerhouse in terms of consumerism."
Gargantuan in scale and in subject, Warhol’s Dollar Sign is a symbol that is arguably the most bold assertion of Warhol’s most important themes of capitalism and consumerism. The artist had incorporated the currency symbol as early as 1964 with one dollar bills, however, his 1982 portfolio emboldens the dollar sign in a totally different way. Situated in its historical moment of the early 80s, a time of economic recession, the dollar sign manages to encompass an entire belief system, economy and society in a singular symbol. As Arthur Danto stated,‘Warhol’s dollar sign is as much an emblem of America as the flag’.
Warhol’s proclivity for repetition and seriality find its ultimate effectiveness in his dollar sign: each dollar sign appears hypnotic in bright colours, electric backgrounds and three dimensional shading. Evoking the real allure and addictiveness of avarice, viewers are pulled in by the sign that is so ubiquitous yet seen differently Warhol’s pop palette.
As brash as it is bold, Warhol’s signifier can arguably be seen as the very culmination of his explorations in superficiality and commerce. Behind the artist’s ‘ready-made' images – the soup can and the brillo boxes - is the dollar: without the exchange of currency, there is no purchase of these objects of consumption and thus underpins all of his most-recognisable icons. Whilst the graffiti-like brandishing of the dollar sign might appear coarse for an artwork, it is a considerate coarseness that lays bare an inescapable fact – that the world of art also governed by the fundamental principles of wealth. With an astute awareness and humour, Warhol stated: ‘I like money on the wall. Say you were going to buy a painting. I think you should take that money, tie it up, and put it on the wall. Then when someone visited you the first thing they would see is money on the wall.’ The artist is also referencing the semiotic deconstruction of the dollar in an installation context. Warhol had produced 200 One Hundred Dollar Bills; here the sign is divorced from its background on the note with its value, emphasising its metaphorical rather than utilitarian purpose.
The artist’s humble beginnings and meteoric rise to fame help shed light onto why the artist felt so compelled to depict money and brands. Warhol was born into a poor, Pittsburgh family, the son of present-day Slovak immigrants. With his multicultural upbringing, and career beginnings as a commercial illustrator in the 1950s, Warhol can be seen to embody the utopian ideal of the ‘American Dream’ in his climb to success and overcoming of social situation. Even after breaking away from commercial illustrations for magazines, Warhol never truly strayed away from being a commercial-first artist, and took on endless commissions in the 1970s of the social elite. The artist clearly felt an inextricable link between art and money, in an almost prophetic fashion that would predict the continuing boom of the art market in the following decades. Going further, playing upon this was an element of the Warholian ‘brand’: tossing aside the notion of highfalutin art, the artist sought to hold up a mirror to the society of his day. With the same accelerating speed of Reagan’s economy and its consumption, Warhol’s Factory churned out silkscreens.
Today, Warhol’s Dollar Signs are as relevant as ever, and the iconography rivals that of Marilyn or Soup Cans in its universality. The dollar sign is at once distinctively American and global, with America being a powerhouse in terms of consumerism.
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