'I like money on the wall. Say you were going to buy a $200,000 painting. I think you should take that money, tie it up, and hang it on the wall. Then when someone visited you, the first thing they would see is the money on the wall'. (Warhol, quoted in D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York 1995, p. 384).
Dollar Sign manifests itself as an example of Andy Warhol's fascination with money and the dollar both as a symbol and as something he cherished. It would be fitting that throughout his career he would continue to revisit the depiction of one of the most successful and recognised symbols of our age, featuring in his drawings and sheets of silkscreen from the early 1960s. But in the early 1980s, in the age that spawned the yuppie that would culminate in American Psycho and Wall Street and that film's infamous mantra, 'Greed is good,' it was only natural that Warhol should look with fresh eyes at his beloved currency. He took the dollar sign itself as a more mysterious and more worship-worthy subject-matter than those earlier images of currency where they were depicted more as bad forgeries. He removed any specific denomination, making the Dollar Sign appear as an altarpiece celebrating the currency as an abstract, rather than merely resembling the various bills that the artist may or may not have had.
As with all Warhol's works, there is a strange ambivalence about this image. Is it a celebration of the dollar, of American economic might, of a successful logo or even of Warhol's own wealth and success? Or is it an indictment? Is Warhol ironically illustrating the value of his own works by emblazoning them with a dollar sign, or is he criticising the mechanics of the art market? The growing connection between money and art intrigued Warhol; they both had a universal power to stimulate the imagination and evoke desire. He could exchange his artistic ideas for cash, a notion that fascinated him. 'Business art is the step that comes after Art. I started as a commercial artist, and I want to finish artist. After I did the thing called 'Art' or whatever it's called, I went into business art. I wanted to be an Art Businessman or a Business Artist. Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. During the hippie era people put down the idea of business they'd say, 'Money is bad,' and 'Working is bad,' but making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.' (Warhol, quoted in ibid., p. 92).
In this scope, Dollar Sign is a celebration of the dollar, of the USA, of wealth and of capitalism while simultaneously delivering a deliberate and calculated statement about the art market and the value attached to pictures. This sense of rebellion and indictment in Dollar Sign is increased by the use of lively colours. These are the loud colours of the Disco age; a bright turquoise juxtaposed with a bright orange and pink beacon of a dollar sign, glowing and shining before our eyes. He has taken the solid symbol of American money and has filled it with a lively Pop aesthetic transforming it into something distinctively Warholian. With Warhol, who was never as ingenuous as he liked to appear, nothing is ever as simple as the surface of the picture, despite whatever he may have said to the contrary. It is this fascinating and playful ambiguity, underlined with a little hint of genuine and serious intent and content, that makes Warhol's Dollar Sign so engaging.