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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
A seminal figure in the Pop Art movement of the early 1960s, Andy Warhol's paintings and screenprints are iconic beyond the scope of Art History, having become universal signifiers of an age. An early career in commercial illustration led to Warhol's appropriation of imagery from American popular culture and insistent concern with the superficial wonder of permanent commodification that yielded a synthesis of word and image, of art and the everyday.
Warhol's obsession with creating slick, seemingly mass-produced artworks led him towards the commercial technique of screenprinting, which allowed him to produce large editions of his painted subjects. The clean, mechanical surface and perfect registration of the screenprinting process afforded Warhol a revolutionary absence of authorship that was crucial to the Pop Art manifesto.
£350,000 - 450,000 ‡
London Auction 5 October 2016