Andy Warhol - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 14, 2022 | Phillips
  • "I like money on the wall. Say you were going to buy… a 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
    Born in the industrial hub of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Austro-Hungarian immigrant parents in 1928 just one year before the Wall Street Crash devastated the American economy and plunged the country into the Great Depression, the young Warhol’s relationship to money and the American dollar was fraught. In the wake of the Second World War and the birth of the American Century, Warhol moved to New York to reinvent himself following his graduation from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1949 and immediately found himself swept up in the rapid socio-cultural changes sweeping the country. After years of wartime rationing, a new era of technological change, commercial enterprise, and prosperity dawned, with manufacturing rocketing as consumer consumption reached a new high.  Fashion, music, and film all entered into a new golden age, with Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley presiding as secular icons over this brave new world. 


    Money Talks


    Long intrigued by the complex relationship developing between wealth and power, the dollar began to appear in Warhol’s practice early, his 1950s drawing of a money-laden tree even predating the crystallisation of the familiar visual vocabulary of Pop art. Warhol returned to the motif in 1962 with his silkscreened paintings of photographed dollar bill drawings – wryly dodging counterfeit claims by using a drawing rather than a photographic image. Applying commercial printing techniques to more traditional art-making practices, Warhol radically reframed debates around art production and value in the 20th century.


    Andy Warhol, Printed Dollar Bill #3, 1962, Collection of the Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey. Artwork: © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London

    In his 1970 essay ‘Raggedy Andy’, esteemed art historian Calvin Tomkin suggests that Warhol’s was inspired to adopt the motif after a conversation with designer and gallerist Muriel Latow. Prompting her for her more ‘fabulous ideas’, Latow playfully charged the artist fifty dollars. Playing along, Warhol wrote the cheque, leading the designer to muse: ‘Money. The thing that more to you than anything else in the world is money. You should paint pictures of money.’i


    Returning to the motif at a mature artist, the present work was executed in the same year as his Dollar Signs exhibition with legendary gallerist Leo Castelli at his Greene Street space in New York in the early months of 1982. A month later, Artforum featured Warhol in a feature piece on artists who had broken through, occupying the coveted centrefold position, Warhol chose to offer a fold-out triptych of Dollar Sign works to represent him.


    Installation view, New York, Leo Castelli, Andy Warhol: Dollar Signs, 1982. Artwork: © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London.

    Demonstrating Warhol’s keen graphic sensibility, the present work is especially animated by the complex interaction of its layers – the vibrant coral ground offsetting the distinct layers of pine, dollar-bill green, and vermillion overlaid in three rounded, looping ‘S’ curves. Loosely scribbled, this final layer unites the different compositional elements and energises the entire work. Binding them closely to a study of the artist himself, curator Trevor Fairbrother suggests that the ‘vivid brashness’ of these works can be read as an artist’s statement of sorts, while the canvases ‘organise pulsating saturated colours into a spectacle as flagrant as a marching band or the lights on Broadway. Multiple overlaid impressions of the motif, deliberately misaligned, make the dollar sign appear to quiver and strain like a fish thrashing in a net.’ii

    The final, overlaid vermillion dollar sign also draws a compelling visual connection with Warhol’s iconic Campbell Soup works. Central to the Warhol oeuvre, the Dollar Sign and Campbell Soup series both articulate Warhol’s fascination with commodity culture with remarkable directness. While the Campbell Soup and Brillo Box works reference consumer capitalism by invoking the objects we fetishise, the dollar symbol clarifies the artist’s focus on what drives consumption: money. Stating this so directly, Warhol challenged traditional notions of ivory tower artists and guardians of high culture who sought to separate fine art from commercialism. 

    "Business art is the step that comes after art. I started as a commercial artist, and I want to finish as 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."
    —Andy Warhol


    Andy Warhol with Dollar Sign painting, New York, 1982. Image: © Santi Visalli, Artwork: © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London

    More than any other artist of his generation, Warhol understood the role that the reproduced image would play in both reflecting and shaping contemporary culture, and in adopting pop culture imagery and commercial printing processes, Warhol developed a visual language that communicated this phenomena. Immediately recognisable, Warhol’s motifs have become icons of 20th century art and visual culture, the Dollar Signs exemplifying in pictorial terms the dominating principles of the American century and 21st century late stage capitalism. In his Dollar Signs, Warhol astutely charged this universal symbol for wealth with desire, exposing the functioning of art as another commodity in an increasingly materialistic world. 


    Collector’s Digest 


    • The defining artist of post-war American Pop Art, Andy Warhol’s work is immediately recognisable and remains highly desirable.

    • Warhol first started using the iconic dollar sign motif in 1981 across a series of drawings, paintings, and screen prints.The Dollar Signs were first exhibited at Leo Castelli’s Gallery in New York in 1982, the same year as the current work’s execution.  


    • The subject of major international exhibitions at Tate Modern, London; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou, Paris, Warhol’s work is also held in the permanent collections of the most important institutions worldwide.


    i George Frei and Neil Printz, The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné Vol. 1: Paintings and Sculpture 1961-1963, London, 2002, p. 131. 
    ii Trevor Fairbrother, ‘ABC Dollar’ in Dollar Signs, (exh. cat.), New York, 2002, p. 13. 

    • Provenance

      Barrington Gallery, New York
      Private Collection, Germany (acquired from the above in 1993)
      Sotheby's, London, 11 February 2015, lot 168
      Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)
      Phillips, Hong Kong, 8 June 2021, lot 23
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Artist Biography

      Andy Warhol

      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.


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Property from a Distinguished Private European Collection


Dollar Sign

signed and dated ‘82 Andy Warhol’ on the overlap
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
25.3 x 20.3 cm (9 7/8 x 7 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1982.

Full Cataloguing

£400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for £603,300

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4060

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 14 October 2022