ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT EUROPEAN COLLECTION
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)

Dollar Sign

ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
Dollar Sign
stamped twice with the Estate of Andy Warhol stamp and numbered 'A392.102' (on the overlap)
acrylic on canvas
20 x 16in. (50.8 x 40.6cm.)
Painted in 1981
Private Collection, Milan.
Cardi Gallery, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012.
Special notice

This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Interim Acting Head of Department

Lot Essay

With its iconic form rendered in searing tones of red and green, Dollar Sign is an electrifying work from one of Andy Warhol’s best-known series. Created in 1981, these paintings mark the apogee of a career that began two decades earlier with seminal images of America’s new idols: from Campbell’s Soup and Coca-Cola, to Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. In Dollar Sign, Warhol takes on the most powerful symbol of consumerist society, bathing it in vivid hues like an emblem within a shrine. The series followed on from his earlier sequence of Dollar Bills, produced during the 1960s. By the 1980s, the idea of turning money into art had taken on a new pertinence, evocative of the booming commercial art world that took New York by storm during the so-called period of ‘Reaganomics’. For Warhol, whose entire practice held a mirror up to society, it was the ultimate coup. Examples from the series are held in collections including Tate, London, the Museum of Contemporary Art Amsterdam and the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Nice.

Warhol’s Dollar Signs were unveiled in a landmark exhibition at Leo Castelli’s New York gallery on Greene Street in 1982. There, explained David Bourdon, ‘they appeared as prophetic emblems of the huge amounts of money that would pour into the art world during the following years’ (D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York 1989, p. 384). During this flourishing period, a younger generation of artists would find themselves catapulted to stardom almost overnight—among them Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose works similarly made repeated reference to ideas about economics and monetary value. It is perhaps unsurprising that the two artists struck up a friendship, with Basquiat even collaborating with Warhol on a later Dollar Sign work. Warhol, for his part, had reached the pinnacle of his celebrity, commanding high prices for his silkscreens and mingling among New York’s most elite social circles. The Dollar Signs, radiant in their iconography, seemed to satirise the very notion of art as currency.

Raised as a Byzantine Catholic, Warhol had grown up surrounded by objects of worship. Between 1976 and 1977 he had painted the hammer and sickle—the symbols of Communism; in the early 1980s he painted a series of crucifixes. The Dollar Signs, in this regard, seemed to posit Capitalism simply as one more ideological system among many. While Warhol’s earliest works had enshrined consumerist products—from movie stars to household goods—the Dollar Signs seemed to go one stage further, addressing the very concept of money in and of itself. Like his Dollar Bills, they spoke directly to its most basic signifier, emphasising its seductive visual properties. ‘American money is very well-designed, really’, Warhol had once said. ‘I like it better than any other kind of money’ (A. Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and back again, Orlando 1975, p. 137). Here, the dollar sign seems to transcend its functional status, reborn as an alluring interplay of colours, forms and lines. In a world where art was money, the work seems to suggest that money had also become a kind of art.

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