An iconic Andy Warhol image of Marilyn Monroe has broken the record for the most expensive 20th-century artwork ever sold at auction, as expected.
Marilyn Monroe is as relevant and compelling as ever more than 50 years after her death, and this is true on the auction block as well.
Andy Warhol’s renowned painting of Monroe, “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn,” set a new record for the most expensive 20th-century artwork sold at auction on Monday, selling for $195 million. The previous record-holder, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Untitled,” which sold for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s in 2017, was surpassed by the 40-inch-by-40-inch silkscreen. In 2013, a Warhol silkscreen portraying an automobile accident sold for $105.4 million.
The Monroe piece was auctioned at Christie’s as part of Thomas and Doris Ammann’s estate sale, with the money going to a charity that helps children with medical and educational needs.
Monroe is depicted in a colorful close-up on a rich blue background in the 1964 silkscreen picture, with her hair yellow, eyeshadow blue, and lips red. According to Christie’s auction house in New York, where the sale took place, it’s also the most expensive work from the twentieth century ever auctioned.
The Warhol sale surpassed the previous record holder, Jean-Michel Basquiat, who sold his 1982 artwork “Untitled” of a skull-like visage for a record $110.5 million at Sotheby’s in 2017.
The transaction was made Monday night, according to Christie’s. When the auction was first publicized earlier this year, experts predicted that it may fetch up to $200 million.
According to Alex Rotter, Christie’s Chairman of 20th and 21st Century Art, Monday’s auction was a “historic night for Christie’s and for the global contemporary art market.”
“Tonight was a historic night for Christie’s and for the entire contemporary art market,” said Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of 20th and 21st-century art, in a statement.
“The record-breaking sale of Warhol’s iconic portrait of Marilyn from the collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann is a testament to the strength, the vibrancy, and the overall excitement of the art market today.
This sale demonstrates the pervasive power of Andy Warhol as well as the lasting legacy that he continues to leave behind in the art world, popular culture, and society.”
The silkscreen was one of four portraits of Monroe created by Warhol two years after her death, each with a different color background. The concept was inspired by a commercial shot of Monroe from the 1953 film Niagara, which many believe to be her breakout role.
A Pop Culture Icon
Everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame, according to Andy Warhol, but Monroe’s celebrity appears to last forever.
Alex Rotter, chairman of Christie’s 20th and 21st century art department, remarked, “It’s an extraordinary price.” “Take it all in; it’s incredible.”
“Clearly, this is where we wanted to be,” said Guillaume Cerutti, Christie’s CEO. “It just goes to show that the art business is quite resilient.”
The sale revenues will benefit the Zurich-based Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation, which put the painting up for auction. The foundation strives to provide health care and educational initiatives to children.
More than one image of Monroe was created by Warhol, and this artwork has been displayed in museums all over the world.
According to CNN, until Monday’s auction, Pablo Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O)” for $179.4 million held the record for most expensive piece of 20th century art sold at auction.
Andrew Fabricant, the chief operating officer of Gagosian galleries and a leading dealer to the wealthy, said of “Marilyn” before Monday’s auction, “It’s the Mount Everest of its era.”
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Fabricant remarked. “This kind of thing doesn’t happen very often.”
The Portrait Was Nearly Shot By A Revolver
The 40-inch-by-40-inch canvases were kept at Warhol’s Manhattan studio, The Factory. When photographer Bill Name’s friend Dorothy Podber saw the paintings in the studio, she asked Warhol if she could photograph them. The artist mistakenly assumed she meant to photograph the paintings when she meant to fire them with a rifle.
Podber donned gloves, pulled a small handgun from her purse, and fired a shot into the stack of four of the five Marilyn paintings, destroying them. The fifth painting, which set a new record on Monday, was not in the stack and hence was not damaged. The other four were dubbed the “Shot Marilyns.”
It would not be the last time guns were fired in Warhol’s studio; in 1968, Valerie Solanas shot Warhol over a disagreement over a play script Solanas had written.
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