No other series reflects mass identity, luxury, and wealth as prominently as Andy Warhol’s Dollar Sign Portfolios from 1982. With neon-bright colors, each print showcases the American dollar sign in an eye-catching and vibrant manner. Created by Warhol himself, these prints became a symbol of his unique artistic identity.
The Genesis of the Series
Warhol, not finding a readymade image of the dollar sign that produced the same dramatic effect, returned to his roots as a draughtsman. He meticulously created the large dollar signs by hand, resulting in a Warholian currency that was both visually striking and true to his artistic vision.
The series consists of several portfolios, each with its own distinctive characteristics. The first portfolio features six screenprints of the dollar sign on relatively small boards, measuring just 19 3/4 inches by 15 5/8 inches in size.
Additionally, Warhol created a single dollar sign edition that was slightly larger, measuring 20 inches by 16 inches.
Next, Warhol experimented with arranging four dollar signs, all of the same typeface but slanted at slightly different angles. These works, measuring 40 inches by 32 inches, create exciting curves and captivating visual movement.
The following two-work portfolio maintains a similar arrangement of four dollar signs but introduces individual background colors for each sign, creating a colorful quadrant.
The last portfolio, also consisting of two works, showcases a glowing 3 by 3 grid of dollar signs, expanding on the quadrant’s size and adding an additional five signs.
The Significance and Satire
Warhol’s fascination with money traces back to his childhood in industrial Pittsburgh. Growing up in a poor family, he began creating money imagery as early as the 1950s, depicting money growing out of a tree. Interestingly, the Dollar Sign Portfolios were created during a time of economic downturn for the United States, with the Iranian revolution causing a surge in oil prices and an ensuing economic recession. This historical context adds a satirical element to the ostentatious imagery of Warhol’s dollar signs.
Art, Wealth, and Consumption
Andy Warhol’s dollar sign series represents the intersection between art and wealth. Both art and money are luxury commodities, appealing to mass consumption and purchasing power. Warhol, like a money press, repeatedly churned out the dollar symbol in mass quantities, aligning himself with the allure of money. As 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. Then 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).
In conclusion, Andy Warhol’s Dollar Sign Portfolios not only celebrate wealth and luxury but also serve as a commentary on the relationship between art and money. With their vibrant colors and striking compositions, these prints continue to captivate audiences and provoke thought even decades after their creation.