Historical Echoes: Andy Warhol and the Art of Money
Money has been a topic of keen interest throughout history. As noted in a previous post, this fascination has extended into artwork created centuries ago through modern times. One artist who expanded the concept of what people perceive as art was Andy Warhol.
Warhol was one of the most well-known American artists of the twentieth century, and a master of self-promotion. In the 1960s, Andy Warhol was a successful commercial artist working in advertising, but looking to break into art world. He created 200 One Dollar Bills in 1962, during the beginnings of the Pop Art movement.
While composing the Dollar Bill artwork series, Warhol first began using a printing technique called silk screening. He drew in ink on acetate, creating images of dollar bills that he then duplicated a total of 200 times, with the silk screening process that simplified the artwork’s production. Warhol was able to compose 200 Dollar Bills, one of his first masterpieces, due to the mass duplication of images allowed by silk-screening that ultimately became his calling card.
Forty-seven years later, 200 One Dollar Bills went on the block for auction. In November 2009, Warhol’s piece of artwork was expected to auction at Sotheby’s for approximately $8 to $12 million. Instead, 200 One Dollar Bills sold for $43,762,500 to an anonymous buyer. Crunching the numbers, this comes out to a whopping $218,812 per screen printed dollar!
Warhol's work continues to garner interest in the decades since his death in 1987. Earlier this year, Christie's auctioned off his 1984 piece, U.S. Unemployment Rate, for $32,500. While this price was far less than that for 200 One Dollar Bills, it reflects the public’s continued fascination with Warhol’s artwork, as well as its continued relevance in current financial times.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the author.
Megan Cohen is a research librarian in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Research and Statistics Group.