Lot 49
  • 49

Andy Warhol

2,500,000 - 3,500,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Andy Warhol
  • Two Dollar Bills (Back) (40 Two Dollar Bills in Green) 
  • signed and dated 62 on the reverse 
  • silkscreen ink and pencil on canvas
  • 83 by 19 in. 210.8 by 48.3 cm.


Stable Gallery, New York 
Alan Gloh, New York
Blum Helman Gallery, New York 
Sotheby’s, New York, May 2, 1989, Lot 58 
Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Zurich 
Daros Collection, Switzerland
Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich 
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2012


New York, Vrej Baghoomian, Inc., Andy Warhol, April 1988, n.p., no. 25 (text) 
Zurich, Daros Collection, Warhol, Polke, Richter: In the Power of Painting 1, May - September 2001, p. 47, illustrated 
Biel, Pavillion of the Swiss National Bank, Money and Value – The Last Taboo, May - October 2002, p. 121, illustrated and pp. 159, 166 and 170, illustrated in color (in installation)
Columbus, Wexner Center of Modern Arts, Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms, September 2008 - February 2009, n.p., illustrated in color
Basel, Kunstmuseum Basel, Andy Warhol: The Early Sixties: Paintings and Drawings 1961-1964, September 2010 - January 2011, p. 129, no. 23, illustrated in color


Rainer Crone, Andy Warhol, London, 1970, p. 307, no. 543 (text)
Rainer Crone, Das Bildnerische Werk: Andy Warhols, Berlin, 1976, p. 386, no. 894 (text)
Exh. Cat., Paris, Musée de la Poste, Les Couleurs de l’Argent, 1991, p. 138, illustrated in color
Georg Frei and Neil Printz, Eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings and Sculptures 1961-1963, Volume 1, New York, 2002, p. 136, no. 132, illustrated in color
María Belén Sáenz de Ibarra, "Face to Face," Art Nexus 7, 2008, p. 60, no. 69 (text)
Exh. Cat., Bogotá, Museo de Arte del Banco de la Repúlica (and travelling), Andy Warhol: Mr. America, 2009, p. 34, illustrated in color 


This work is in excellent condition. Please contact the Contemporary Art Department at +1 (212) 606-7254 for the report prepared by Terrence Mahon. The canvas is framed in a wood frame.
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.

Catalogue Note

An iconic work from the artist’s first, pioneering foray into the medium of silkscreen painting, Two Dollar Bills (Back) (40 Two Dollar Bills in Green) from 1962 encapsulates the extraordinary ability to appropriate, subvert, and reinvent the motifs of consumer culture which defines the inimitable Pop vernacular of Andy Warhol. Executed in two columns of eye-popping green, the mechanical seriality of the present work evokes the quotidian process by which printed money is mass-produced in American mints every day; simultaneously, in his rote repetition of this familiar form, each bill subtly variegated with painterly specificity, Warhol elevates the American two-dollar bill to stand alongside Coca-Cola bottles, Campbell’s soup cans, and Brillo boxes in his revered pantheon of iconic Pop art symbols. A superb example from Warhol’s 1962 series of Dollar Bill silkscreen paintings, Two Dollar Bills (Back) (40 Two Dollar Bills in Green) is one of only ten works from the limited group executed in serial format, the remainder of which are housed in a number of the world’s most esteemed public and private collections; within this rarified group, the present work is the sole example to depict only the reverse of the American two-dollar bill, Warhol’s personal favorite. An artist who would become known for his inspired use of image repetition as a thematic device, Two Dollar Bills (Back) (40 Two Dollar Bills in Green) endures, not as one of the artist’s first serial masterworks, but as a magnificent exemplification of Warhol’s pioneering investigation of the universal legibility and semiotic power of cultural icons that comprise everyday life. To compose Two Dollar Bills (Back) (40 Two Dollar Bills in Green), Warhol arranged twenty two-dollar bills in two precise rows, both shown in reverse, to create an exquisite, slim-line portrait format. Within the familiar pantheon of American currency, Warhol placed a particularly high premium upon the image of the two-dollar bill; fascinated by the pictorial scheme of these rare bills, he would frequently visit New York banks to stock up, reveling in the intricate beauty of their unique design. Indeed, Arthur C. Danto recounts that a significant cache of two-dollar bills was found in Warhol’s apartment after his death, testifying both to the artist’s fondness for the this particular item of currency and to his unique mania to collect. In concordance with comparative rarity of two-dollar bill in circulation, and evoking the lucky status they were subsequently accorded, Warhol created only four large-scale two-dollar bill works, including, Two Dollar Bills (Fronts)(40 Two Dollar Bills in Red), in the Froehlich Collection, Stuttgart, and Forty Two Dollar Bills (Fronts and Backs), and Two Dollar Bills (Front and Rear)[80 Two Dollar Bills (Front and Rear)], in the collection of the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, in addition to the present work. 

Alongside the other monumental works in the artist’s limited 1962 Dollar Bills series, Two Dollar Bills (Back) (40 Two Dollar Bills in Green) stands as the ultimate manifestation of perhaps the most salient inquiry in Pop Art history: the relationship between art and commerce. With this series, Warhol wholly revolutionized American art with his pioneering use of the commercial silkscreen technique, de-personalizing the production of his oeuvre in wry mimicry of the overabundant prosperity of Post-War America.  Responding to the consumer-driven culture which defined the era, Warhol sought a technique that would eradicate traces of the artist’s hand, mirroring the distance and alienation that was proliferating in the modern world around him. Rather fittingly, and with typical Warholian irony, the subject matter chosen for this momentous shift in practice was the ultimate serial image and symbol of commerce – the mass-printed dollar bill.  While various anecdotes as to who inspired Warhol to elevate the humble dollar bill have become mythologized within the annals of art history, one account in particular speaks to the origin of Two Dollar Bills (Back) (40 Two Dollar Bills in Green); as told by Eleanor Ward, a prominent New York art dealer and friend of Warhol’s, the inspiration for the stories came from her promise of a solo show at her celebrated Stable Gallery if, and only if, Andy should paint a portrait of her lucky two-dollar bill. In typical fashion, however, when asked to reveal the impetus behind the series, Warhol wryly remarked: “I just paint things I always thought were beautiful, things you use every day and never think about. I’m working on soups and I’ve been doing some paintings of money. I just do it because I like it.” (Andy Warhol quoted in: David Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1995, p. 90) Indeed, Warhol often commented on the beauty of the dollar bill itself: “American money is very well-designed, really. I like it better than any other kind of money.” (Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, New York 1975, p. 137) Created at the very crux of the artist’s transition from commercial illustration to the realm of fine art, Two Dollar Bills (Back) (40 Two Dollar Bills in Green) is emblematic, not only of Warhol’s career-long investigation of commercialism within the art world, but also of his unique, utterly Pop exploration of the universal semiotic power of cultural signs, icons, and objects that comprise everyday life.