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July 12, 2013

Historical Echoes: Andy Warhol and the Art of Money

Megan Cohen

Money has been a topic of keen interest throughout
history. As noted in a previous
, 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
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.

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