What if I told you that Andy Warhol predicted that the crude, brash, look-at-me Donald Trump would one day be a popular candidate aspiring for world domination via the American presidency?
He didn’t. But his art did. The story goes that an art dealer Muriel Latow told Warhol: “The thing that means more to you and that you like more than anything else in the world is money. You should paint pictures of money.” Warhol said, “That’s wonderful”, and he did. Over the years, he created several stark paintings and prints of the dollar symbol and dollar bills. There is nothing subtle about these works: they are literally large dollar symbols painted on canvas and prints of one and two dollar bills.
Later in his book THE Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) he explained these works. “I like money on the wall,” he wrote. “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. Then when someone visited you, the first thing they would see is the money on the wall.”
In recognizing the crass love for money in himself and others, and confronting us with it in all its crudeness, he revealed something about America. The unabashed reverence of money above everything else. Many films, books and works of art have explored this love but none as crudely as Warhol and his dollar paintings. It is a crudeness that is only matched by Donald Trump and his vulgar references to his billions. That he is the leading Republican candidate is a tribute to Warhol’s America.
Good artists invariably capture something intangible about the societies they live in. Sometimes, it is direct and intentional. Other times, it appears unconsciously in their exploration of society and of themselves as a product of it.
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