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£350,000 - 450,000 ‡
Alexander Iolas, Athens (acquired directly from the Artist)
Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above in the 1980s)
Sotheby’s London, 15 February 2011, lot 47
Mugrabi Family Collection
Acquired from the above by the present owner
'...one lady friend of mine asked me the right question: ‘Well, what do you love most?’ That’s how I started painting money.' Andy Warhol, 1962
Coming from a poor family in industrial Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol publicly acknowledged his love of money, leading to his love for incorporating the motif of money in his art. Beginning in the 1960s, he started depicting one-dollar bills, which fuelled his revolutionary exploration of the silkscreen process and revealed the immense significance of money for Warhol as both a decorative element and a social signifier of success. Two decades later, when his career was experiencing a renaissance in the early 1980s, Warhol returned to the imagery of money, culminating in the production of a whole series of drawings, paintings and prints of the dollar sign, of which the present lot is an exceptional example. The painting depicts an impactful dollar sign, based on a marker pen and ink drawing of the symbol done by the artist (even the ink splatters are retained); the greens of both the background and the sign itself directly recall the greens of the dollar bill, making the connection with the ubiquitous image more expressive still.
The Dollar Sign series exemplifies the zeitgeist of the 1980s, a period of dynamic and fluid cultural exchanges between high art and commodity culture – there is hardly a more influential, international, everyday symbol than the dollar sign, which undeniably symbolises the free market and commercial capitalism. As one of the founding fathers of Pop art, Andy Warhol built his reputation on breaking down the traditional boundaries between high art and popular culture, and this lot is an example of the artist at once reinventing the dollar symbol and amplifying it as pop art, as he often did with other most recognisable images, from Coca-Cola to Hollywood celebrities.
The artist famously employed the mechanical process of painting: ‘I'm for Mechanical art. When I took up silk screening it was to more fully exploit the preconceived image through the commercial techniques of multiple reproduction.' (Andy Warhl quoted in I'll be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews, New York, 2004, p. 8-9). The dollar sign is a symbol that fundamentally channels the idea of mechanisation and repetition – through the employment of this symbol in his art Warhol highlighted further his investment in industrial production.
All of Warhol’s art that incorporates the image of money can be seen as a comment on the art market and the worth of the art that is sold in auction. The artist himself has commented on the subjective value of art: '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.' (Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, 1975, pp. 133-134). For Warhol, the dollar bill symbolises the American dream, with all its highs and lows; by involving it in his works the artist was able to pass satirical comment on the contemporary social issues and commercial values, and these comments can, and should, encourage reflection on the social realities of today.
American • 1928 - 1987
Andy Warhol was the leading exponent of the Pop Art movement in the U.S. in the 1960s. Following an early career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol achieved fame with his revolutionary series of silkscreened prints and paintings of familiar objects, such as Campbell's soup tins, and celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe. Obsessed with popular culture, celebrity and advertising, Warhol created his slick, seemingly mass-produced images of everyday subject matter from his famed Factory studio in New York City. His use of mechanical methods of reproduction, notably the commercial technique of silk screening, wholly revolutionized art-making.
Working as an artist, but also director and producer, Warhol produced a number of avant-garde films in addition to managing the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground and founding Interview magazine. A central figure in the New York art scene until his untimely death in 1987, Warhol was notably also a mentor to such artists as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
£350,000 - 450,000 ‡
London Auction 5 October 2016