Lot 126
  • 126

ANDY WARHOL | Dollar Sign

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • Andy Warhol
  • Dollar Sign
  • signed and dated 82 on the overlap
  • acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
  • 25.1 by 20.1 cm. 9 7/8 by 7 7/8 in.


Barrington Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the red is slightly richer in the original. Condition: The work is in very good condition. Very close inspection reveals some faint tension cracks to the extreme overturn horizontal edges and some light handling marks to the all four corner tips. Further close inspection in raking light reveals some canvas tension to the extreme bottom right corner tip. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra violet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Bold, bright, and bombastic, Dollar Sign exemplifies Andy Warhol’s untempered delight in graphically mapping the constant, unseen dialogue between intangible abstract systems of the collective consciousness, and tangible marks and shapes reproducible by hand. The dollar sign’s glorious, arresting red is given three dimensionality by opulent royal blue shading on a white backdrop. On one level, Dollar Sign is a candid eulogy: originally from a resource-poor family from industrial Pittsburgh, Warhol made no secret of his love and respect for entrepreneurship and money. But on the other, this later period of the early 1980s sees Warhol’s work evince an unprecedented degree of astute social commentary and self-critical reflexivity.  Warhol’s previous work as a graphic designer granted him an unparalleled ability to elevate brands and symbols into icons. Combining ingenious, creative draughtsmanship with the blotting of ink while still wet, the Warhol of the 1950s pioneered a unique method of rudimentary printmaking. With his portraiture, Warhol modified this technique into his celebrated silkscreen printmaking process. The present work is part of the Dollar Signs series, which itself was coincident with a relevantly similar series entitled Crosses: exuberant, candy-coloured crucifixes – arranged with a Pop-collectability and levity at comical odds with the cultural weight of the symbology – stand out against stark white or black backgrounds. These series in turn stylistically recall Warhol’s Hammer and Sickle paintings of the previous decade. In first appropriating, and then (the hallmark of the fetish) isolating the icons that serve as the unconscious driving forces of the abstract value-systems on which we build our lives, Warhol returns those systems to the brute marks and shapes on which they are founded. They are then serialised into uncharted and novel territory: we feel the strange within the familiar, we see the supposedly rigid as manipulable. Just as art is made from commerce, and vice versa – Warhol’s work seems to aphorise – the abstractions structuring our lives are made from contingent human artefacts, and vice versa.

Dollar Signs, Crosses and the Hammer and Sickle paintings gloriously bring to the fore a representative symbol of collective consciousness. But in addition, the former two series succeeded Warhol’s Retrospective Paintings of 1979, and thus coincide with a period of greater self-scrutiny for the artist. Hence it is plausible that, while Dollar Sign bodies forth a straightforward celebration of American free-market prosperity, it also distances itself from that act; revealing both monetary power and religious idolatry as false gods. Warhol seems to be standing in a deliberate ironic detachment relation to the postwar American citizen’s inability not to worship something; be it power itself, the Christian God, money, intelligence or sex appeal. As David Foster Wallace summarised during his now famous ‘This is Water’ commencement speech, ‘Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship’ (David Foster Wallace, This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life, London 2009, online).