By 1981 Andy Warhol’s iconic status was paramount. Synonymous with the American Pop Art movement he had initiated in the early 1960s, his art was collected and exhibited in the world’s most renowned public and private institutions. Furthermore, Warhol was now a celebrity and taste maker in his own right, as recognized by stars like Marilyn, Liz and Elvis that he had idolised at the beginning of his career.
Despite all the fame and financial success that he enjoyed, throughout his career, Warhol remained preoccupied with money. In his diaries, collected and edited by Pat Hackett, besides noting where he went and who he spent time with, the artist expresses his interest in the value of things, to the extent of rigorously noting down the fares of his taxi rides.
Fittingly, the subject of ‘Dollar Bills’ had provided the motif for Warhol’s breakthrough series of 1961, which in turn had prompted his revolutionary exploration of the silkscreen process for creating his paintings. Twenty years on Warhol revisited the subject of money, this time focussing on the elegant curvilinear form of the dollar sign itself. Unlike the monochromatic and static 1961 ‘Dollar Bill’ paintings, Warhol’s 1981 ‘Dollar Signs’ pulsated with vibrant hues, layered energy, as if celebrating the artist’s mastery over his adopted medium. Based on one of Warhol’s own drawings, the stylised $ motif here seems to reverberate in crimson red, pink and gold against a baby-blue background. In his seminal 1989 publication on the artist, David Bourdon reflects, “Warhol’s Dollar Signs are brazen, perhaps even insolent reminders that pictures by brand-name artists are metaphors for money, a situation that never bothered him” (David Bourdon, Warhol, New York 1989, p. 384).
A gift from Andy Warhol to Jade Jagger and dedicated to Jade on the overlap, the provenance of the present Dollar Sign adds to its historical significance. As the daughter of his close friends Mick and Bianca Jagger, during her childhood, Jade would regularly be taken to parties and gatherings at Warhol’s Factory by her parents where she met all the artists, singers and designers within New York’s hip, fashionable crowd. Jade Jagger recalls: “Until my early teens I lived with my mother in New York and I spent a lot of time in the company of her friends, mostly artists and designers, such as Andy Warhol, Ross Bleckner and Francesco Clemente, none of whom had kids, so I was like their shared child” (Jade Jagger quoted in: Ella Alexander, ‘A Jagger Childhood’ in: Vogue UK, January 2012, online). Warhol was indeed very fond of the young Jade, and warmly recollects his friendship with her in his diary.
With its striking colours and rhythmic repetition of the single $ motif, Dollar Sign epitomises Andy Warhol’s singular artistic vision, one that would surprise and captivate in the 1980s and has continued to do so more than three decades later.
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