Andy Warhol’s Dollar Sign Series (1982) Perhaps No Other Series Reflect Mass Identity, Luxury and Wealth As Prominently

Perhaps no other series reflect mass identity, luxury and wealth as prominently as Warhol’s Dollar Sign Series from 1982. The prints from this series are recognizable for repeatedly featuring the American dollar sign in neon bright colors. Each reiteration of the image showcases vibrant colors to enhance the visual impact of the monetary symbol. The source image for this series was created by Andy Warhol himself as he didn’t find a readymade image of the dollar sign that produced the same dramatic effect. To do so, he returned to his origins as a draughtsman created the large dollar signs by hand. Essentially, he created a Warholian currency that was also unique to his artistic identity.

The first portfolio of six screenprints featuring the dollar sign was printed on relatively small boards, just 19 3/4 inches by 15 5/8 inches in size.

Andy Warhol Screenprint $ (1) 1982, Portfolio of six works, FS II. 274-279
Andy Warhol Screenprint $ (1) 1982, Portfolio of six works, FS II. 274-279

Additionally, Warhol created a single dollar sign edition that was slightly bigger in size, 20 inches by 16 inches

Andy Warhol $ (1) 1982 FS II.280
Andy Warhol $ (1) 1982 FS II.280

 

Next, Warhol played around with arranging 4 dollar signs, all of the same type face but slanted at slightly different angles. The serpentine lines of the font combined with the varying angles of the signs keep our eye running around the composition in exciting curves. These works, measuring at 40 inches by 32 inches, are a part of a two-piece portfolio

Andy Warhol Screenprint $ (4) 1982 FS II. 281
Andy Warhol Screenprint $ (4) 1982 FS II. 281

The next two-work portfolio is similar in its arrangement of 4 dollar signs and identical in size, but now each sign has its own background color, breaking the visual field into a colorful quadrant.

Andy Warhol Screenprint $ (Quadrant) 1982 FS II. 284
Andy Warhol Screenprint $ (Quadrant) 1982 FS II. 284

The last portfolio consists of two work as well, measuring the same as the quadrant but squeezing in an additional 5 dollar signs, making for a glowing 3 by 3 grid

Andy Warhol Screenprint $ (9) 1982 FS II. 286
Andy Warhol Screenprint $ (9) 1982 FS II. 286

Nothing intrigued Warhol more than money. In fact, origins of his obsession can be traced back to Warhol’s childhood growing up in poor family from industrial Pittsburgh. He began creating money imagery as early as the 1950s with drawings of money growing out of a tree. Ironically, the series was created in a time of economic downturn for the United States. For one, the Iranian revolution in 1979 had caused a surge in oil prices. A year later, the United States entered an economic recession which would last for two years. The ostentatious imagery of Warhol dollar signs becomes a visual satire when considering the historical context.

Overall, Warhol’s dollar sign series represents the crucial intersections between art and wealth. Both art and money are luxury commodities in their own right. Intrinsic to both is their appeal to mass consumption and purchasing power. Warhol arguably likened himself to a money press, repeatedly churning out the dollar symbol in mass quantities.  He famously said, “say you were going to buy a painting. I think you should take that money, tie it up, and hang it on the wall. The when someone visited you, the first thing they would see is the money on the wall” (A. Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, New York, 1975, p.134).

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