Dollar Sign 278 is a screenprint by Andy Warhol. Composed in 1982 as part of his Dollar Sign portfolio, Dollar Sign 278 encapsulates the essence of the series: a bold and conspicuous celebration of Warhol’s fascination with money. This series of prints has an unusually intimate style, containing a rarely hand-made source image and frenzied coloring. This choice suggests that there is more to the seemingly impersonal symbol than one might think.
Andy Warhol made no secret of his fascination with business, capitalism, and money. The Pop-Art movement he pioneered celebrated consumerism in its depictions of consumer goods and in its advertisement-inspired depictions of celebrities. He famously dubbed his studio “the Factory,” a name which accurately described the assembly-line style production that took place there. The subject matter and manufactory production of Warhol’s work blurred the lines between art and product. Further, Warhol himself was vocal about his belief that his art was a kind of business.
Warhol’s obsession with financial success may have been a result of his upbringing. Raised in Depression-Era Pittsburgh, Warhol understood the absence of luxury, and even money itself. For the Warhola family, making money was necessary for survival. We see this sentiment reflected in Warhol’s reverence for entrepreneurship. “Good business is the best art,” he said, famously, in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. This philosophy was certainly present in his mass-production of art, in which he created and sold prints at high volumes. Moreover, it is notably present in what Warhol chose to depict. The universally recognizable Campbell’s Soup series presents commodities themselves as art, and argues that there is art in consumerism and consumption.
The Dollar Sign portfolio takes this a step further. While earlier Warhol masterpieces celebrated the commodity as art, Dollar Sign celebrates the dollar, itself, as art. This echoes Andy Warhol’s idea of “money on the wall,” perhaps best summed up in this quote from The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: “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”. In Warhol’s extreme celebration of consumerism, money has the same artistic meaning as anything it could purchase.
Dollar Sign 278 is one of the only prints in the portfolio to be printed on a white background, which places all of the focus on the center print. Andy Warhol has chosen to color the symbol green, unmistakable recognizable as the color of money. Thus, this print one of the most upfront and eye-catching in the portfolio. Stripped-down to the most provocative and recognizable motifs, Dollar Sign 278 perfectly captures the honesty and the starkness of Warhol in his later years.
Photo credit: Andy Warhol with Dollar Sign painting, New York, 1982. Image: © Santi Visalli, Artwork: © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London