200 One Dollar Bills: Andy Warhol’s Fabulous Joke

200 One Dollar Bills: Andy Warhol’s Fabulous Joke

Unfortunately, Andy Warhol’s not around to enjoy the fabulous joke of his pictures of money grabbing so much money.  His 1962 silk-screen painting 200 One Dollar Bills sold for $43.8 million at Sotheby’s this week, more than four times its estimated selling price. The seven-and-a-half-foot-wide canvas, one of Warhol’s first silk-screen paintings, looks like just what you’d think: 200 one-dollar bills.  The current record for a Warhol painting is $71.7 million for Green Car Crash, which was sold at Christie’s in 2007.  Yes, if you just take a wide look at today’s contemporary art world, that confection of bucks, puff and street smarts, you realize anew that Andy Warhol was the big daddy of it all.

But is this painting, a solid wall of greenbacks, really beautiful?  Well, in the art world Warhol completely changed our idea of beauty so, yes, it is.  He was also one of the first modern artists to say out loud that money itself is beautiful, is art, which has helped create the reality that, aesthetically speaking, it is as often as not, the price tag, not what it’s attached to, that generates value.  So the new owner of 200 One Dollar Bills got a funny old print on canvas all tarted up with some paint, which he or she succeeded in making super-famous and valuable by paying so much for it.  Wow.  That’s talent.  And as for Warhol, did he already suspect in 1962 that in making his art he would be so good at printing money for many, many years?  He was such a cultural clairvoyant, you just know he knew.

Andy Warhol’s 200 One Dollar Bills

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