“ONE SILVER DOLLAR PAYABLE TO THE BEARER ON DEMAND” reads the front of the silver certificate dollar bill as immortalised within the history of American currency. Collectively presented under this very rubric, Sotheby’s is the bearer of an extraordinary collection that demands recognition as the ultimate assembly of Andy Warhol’s dollar paintings in existence. Beyond the scope and quality of any other private or publically owned collection, these museum-calibre works together present a picture of Warhol’s career at its most primal, focussing as they do on the most rudimentary of Warholian values: money. From his very first painting of a dollar bill and very first silkscreened works, through to two major works from the 1981 series of Dollar Signs, this collection elucidates Warhol the great draughtsman and painter, Warhol the great social leveller and provocateur, and Warhol the grand master of sign and symbol. Brought together with great determination by the present owner – a feat almost certainly impossible today owing to the pedigree, rarity, and museum status of these paintings and their sister pieces – the Warholian core of the present collection is utterly unmatched anywhere in the world. Never before has such an assemblage of works been exhibited together, let alone presented together for public sale.
Following Warhol’s lead, works by Keith Haring, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Joseph Beuys, Arman, Gustave Buchet, Francesco Clemente, Ronnie Cutrone, Scott Campbell, Cildo Meireles, Robert Silvers, Jin Wang and Liu Zheng further underline the US dollar’s symbolic stake at the forefront of the global dialogue between culture and capital. Acquired over the course of two decades and assembled with an acutely discerning eye, these works communicate the archetypal power of the US dollar as perhaps the most widely recognised and potent symbol in the world today. With Warhol at its very epicentre, To the Bearer on Demand takes a glance at the relationship between art and commerce of the last 50 years, and wears a wry smile in the face of a society characterised by the famous cliché: cash is king.