Andy Warhol's love affair with money is well documented, and the present lot is a dynamic example from the 1981 series which put the ubiquitous symbol for US currency, the '$' sign, at its focal point. A subject that Warhol addressed early in his career, with works such as the early icon, One Dollar Bills from 1962, his fascination with money and commerce also manifested itself in his obsession with the lifestyles of the rich and famous, Hollywood stars Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, and every day mass-market consumables like Campbell's Soup cans, Coke bottles and Brillo Pads.
Ironically, considering the endemic nature of the dollar, Warhol was unable to find a pre-existing image of its symbol that had quite the visual impact he needed. He resorted to the skill that supported him during the early years of his career, his draftsmanship, and drew dollar sign after dollar sign, some straight upright, some slanting, some thick, some thin, some more Pop, some more staid - always composed of the stylized 'S' with bisecting verticle elements. "Beyond the matter of the sign's force and meaning, there is the tremendous inventiveness with which Warhol drew this most commonplace of emblems, as if he saw the subject as presenting endless opportunities for variation in color, shape, emphasis, and texture of a largely invariant form It is very much as if he meant to demonstrate that he was as interested in the sign itself as in what it stood for." (A.C. Danto in exh. cat. $, Gagosian Gallery, New York 1997). The fact that the source image for these paintings was one that Warhol created himself, marks his Dollar Sign series as a rarity within his body of work.
Painted on vibrant backgrounds ranging from canary yellow, lime green and cardinal red, the dollar signs in the present lot are each unique and individual in their composition. As is evident in Untitled (Six Dollar Signs), Warhol fully explored color combinations and possible formats for presenting this subject. In the present lot, one dollar sign is thick, depicted in shimmering metallic and black paint, almost pushing past the edges of the canvas while another is curved and elegant, screened in black, with a whimsical air as it slants to the right. Two canvases are adorned more stylized symbols depicted in multiple neon colors slightly off-set from one another; the effect is an almost psychedelic configuration. In each case, Warhol has elected to include the spontaneity of his original sketches.
The growing connection between money and art intrigued Warhol; both had a universal power to stimulate the imagination and evoke desire. By the 1980s, Warhol was regularly exchanging his artistic output for cash, a notion that fascinated him. By putting the dollar sign on a canvas, the artwork becomes a Warholian currency in its own right. Money, as purchasing power, is what enables consumption, but in an ironic twist, Warhol also recognized the intrinsic value of money and art. "I like money on the wall," he once wrote, "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).
Whether presented in a vertical or horizontally arrangement, Warhol's Untitled (Six Dollar Signs) successfully presents one of the most recognizable symbols in modern society in a visually arresting series of canvases which captures both the sentiment of the age and the character of the artist.