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Dollars and Sense: Andy Warhol: Making Money

“Hey, Kiddo.” When she was a young girl, Berkeley Reinhold would pick up the phone and hear Andy Warhol greet her with those words. Although he was calling for her father, a close friend, Warhol would take the time to talk to Berkeley about what she and her friends were interested in. “She was Andy’s window into the younger generation,” explains Deborah Harry in her preface to Andy Warhol: Making Money, a facsimile edition of a unique art book that Warhol created for Berkeley as a Christmas gift. Reinhold shares that gift with the public through this edition, which not only documents Warhol’s fascination with the dollar sign as a symbol, but also Warhol’s sense of playfulness, which this young girl in his life helped bring out.

“When Andy called, he would want to know what was happening,” Reinhold explains in her preface, “what was hot, what were the kids at school wearing, who were the movie stars they liked, what music I was into, and what were we all talking about. Then it would end with, ‘Is your Pops there?’” The conversation didn’t ever really end, however. The daily calls became a continuing dialogue between the artist and the child. One day, Berkeley shared an idea with Warhol “to send one U.S. dollar bill to one hundred artists and ask them to comment on the relationship between art and money by using the dollar bill any way they wanted.” Warhol had long been interested in the dollar sign and money as symbols and art. “American money is very well designed, really,” Warhol once remarked. “I like it better than any other kind of money.” Warhol capitalized on his shared interest with Berkeley to hit upon the perfect Christmas gift for her in 1981.

Vincent Fremont, a confidant and long-time business associate of Warhol’s, explains in his essay the context of Warhol’s drawings. Mired in the economic doldrums of the early 1980s, Warhol wanted to save the symbol from the crude associations of greedy Wall Street. “Andy managed to take a symbol that was considered vulgar,” Fremont believes, “and transform it into beautiful paintings and drawings.” Just as he had taken icons such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe and plumbed depths behind the overexposed surfaces, Warhol finds a surprising beauty beneath something as close as our wallets.

The images themselves range from amorphous abstractions to recognizable dollar signs. Warhol worked on only the right-hand pages of the original book, leaving a ghostly reversed echo on the left-hand pages (one example shown above). The cumulative effect is to see the dollar sign itself anew as a work of art. If you engage in the same playfulness that Warhol felt when creating these works, you’ll allow yourself to transform the book into a flip book. Flipping quickly through the pages allows you to transform the individual drawings into a mini-movie of the evolution of an idea.

“These drawings remind me of the playful side of Andy, a generous and kind friend, always in wonderment of everything he encountered,” Harry says of the drawings. “To some the dollar sign might be a symbol of wealth, but to me this book of dollar sign drawings exemplifies the kindness and generosity of Andy Warhol,” Reinhold says, seconding Harry. It’s amazing how such a little book can give such a huge glimpse into another side of Warhol—separated from the organized weirdness of The Factory and freed just to be Andy, a friend sharing his gifts with his friends. Andy Warhol: Making Money is about a different kind of wealth—the wealth of a man measured in friendships.

[Many thanks to Rizzoli USA for providing me with a review copy of and the image above from Andy Warhol: Making Money.]

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