Andy Warhol, Pop Artist
27 years after his death, Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987) continues to be one of the world’s most popular artists. I say “popular,” because he is referred to as the king of Pop Art, an art movement running from the 50s to 80s. His position is parallel to other artist from other eras: Leonardo daVinci and the Renaissance, Claude Monet and Impressionism, Pablo Picasso and Modernism, Salvador Dali and Surrealism.
I’d like to explore a work that expanded to a series of works, Dollar Sign. This work can be discussed as a single piece or as a group of pieces. Dollar Sign was completed in 1981, and is a successor to 200 One Dollar Bills, 1962.
Andy Warhol’s 200 One Dollar Bills is a hugely important work for American art history
— Alex Rotter
Dollar Sign and 200 One Dollar Bills both sit at the core of Warhol’s career-long obsession with money. With an artist like Picasso we speak of different periods: Blue, Rose, Dark, and similarly with Warhol we find many themes in his work: Celebrity, Sex, Death, Money and Time.
I find the Dollar Sign series aesthetically intriguing, compositionally compelling, and vibrant with sharp and bright colors. The Dollar Signs function as gigantic drop cap lettering. Comparing Warhol’s “drop caps” to 19th Century flowery and elegantly drop caps, Warhol’s Dollar Sign feels more modern. Warhol employs an expressive brush and outspoken color combinations.
The message with Dollar Sign is very up front. Warhol celebrates and critiques, money, business art, and consumer culture. The Dollar Sign series was created between 1981-1982. Warhol used silk-screen printing, a favorite process since the 60s. Warhol liked the speed and efficiency of screenprinting. Especially the speed, he couldn’t make his paintings fast enough! Warhol celebrates consumerism and a mass produced world of plenty (Modern Masters, BBC documentary) Screenprinting accommodated his ideas in producing art that reflects the consumer revolution from 50s.
Warhol is a clever artist with a business mind. Born to poor, immigrant parents in Pittsburgh in 1928, Warhol grew up during The Great Depression. Later his career came into full swing as America left The Depression behind in postwar success and money. Warhol borrows everything he sees and visualizes it in his work. Warhol is obsessed with money. He regularly talks about money. He was once given the advice to paint what you love, and thus he paints money.
I like money on the wall. Say you were going to buy a $200,000 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.
Good Business is the Best Art
Throughout his career Warhol created numerous successful series. In his Dollar Sign series we see him presenting one of his fundamental tenets about art,
Making money is art, and working is art, and good business is the best art.
— Andy Warhol