Executed in 1981, Warhol's Dollar Sign appears to be a monument to money. One of the most recognised symbols in the entire world has been spread across the vast canvas. The dollar sign here shown on such a huge scale was taken from his own drawings, but the addition of the stencilled colours gives the work a solidity, as though this were a picture of a great sculpture. But is this a celebration of money and capitalism, or is it an ironic indictment? As is so often the case with Warhol, there is no simple answer. Throughout his life and career, he showed a continued fascination with the stars and symbols of our age, and in many ways the dollar sign is more pertinent, more internationally recognised, than Marilyn or Jackie. In this sense, it fits in with much of the rest of his oeuvre, singing on the canvas with its simple iconic strength. Indeed, it is interesting to see that through the 70s and early 80s, celebrities did not hold sway over his work (portraits aside), but gave way instead to symbols and politicians. Marx and Mao, the hammer and sickle - these became the symbols of Warhol's art, immortalising on a grand scale the artist's legendary political indifference. Warhol was deliberately taking images that held some meaning, that would provoke a response, and using them in his art in a manner that appeared to insist that his only interest in the subjects was aesthetic. Content, Dollar Sign, Mao and Hammer and Sickle insist, eluded him.
But by using the dollar as the subject matter for a work, Warhol was clearly making a reference to art as a commodity. This was an old trope in his work, a comparison that appeared again and again. However, unlike so many other artists who disliked or denied their association with the capitalistic mechanics of the art market, Warhol openly embraced it, nowhere more openly than in Dollar Sign. Warhol did not believe in art as something apart or above, but instead hoped that its availability on the market would bring about, on some level, its democratisation. Dollar Sign is a work that exposes and banishes the mystique of the art world, and invites the viewer to participate either by looking at, or purchasing, a Warhol. While he was joking when he said that he would rather see people hang cash in their homes than expensive pictures, Dollar Sign shows his own practical response to his claim that 'I like money on the wall' (Warhol, quoted in D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1995, p. 384).