Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe portrait sold for record $195 million

11 May

A Marilyn Monroe portrait by Andy Warhol was sold at $195 million (€185 million) at the auction house Christie's in New York on Monday.


The 1964 silk-screen portrait is one in a series of portraits that the artist made of Monroe, following her death. It was held in the collection of Swiss art dealers Thomas and Doris Ammann. Pre-sales estimates had reached as high as $200 million (€189 million). 

'One of the greatest paintings of all time'

"Shot Sage Blue Marilyn" by the pop artist "is the absolute pinnacle of American Pop," according to Alex Rotter, Chairman of 20th and 21st Century Art at Christie's. Warhol painted it soon after Monroe's 1962 death by barbiturate overdose, it's part of a series of five portraits of Monroe he painted which became known as the "Shot" series. The nickname was born when a visitor to Warhol's "Factory" studio in Manhattan fired a gun at them, piercing the portraits which were later repaired.

"The painting transcends the genre of portraiture," Rotter continued, "superseding 20th century art and culture. Standing alongside Botticelli's Birth of Venus, Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, and Picasso's Les Demoiselle d'Avignon, Warhol's Marilyn is one of the greatest paintings of all time."

Andy Warhol portrait of Marilyn Monroe set for auction record


An icon of 20th-century art

A 1964 silkscreen portrait of Marilyn Monroe, known as "Shot Sage Blue Marilyn," will be auctioned in May by auction house Christie's. The work could sell for $200 million (€182 million), making it the most-expensive 20th-century artwork to be auctioned. Celebrating her iconic status, Andy Warhol made many Monroe works, including five different versions of this portrait, each in different shades.


'Altered Image' (1981)

Andrew Warhola was born on August 6, 1928, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Eastern European immigrants. After college, he worked as a commercial illustrator, gaining recognition as an artist in the 1960s. Andy Warhol's serial pop art works revolutionized the art world. He was also an icon of the queer community. Warhol created this portrait with photographer Christopher Makos.


'Self Portrait' (1986)

This self portrait is reminiscent of religious iconography. Andy Warhol's parents came from a village in the Carpathian Mountains (now Slovakia)#, and emigrated to the US in the 1920s via Bremen. His mother was a devout Catholic, and during the hours spent attending mass with her as a child, he would stare for hours at the paintings of Christ and the saints in the church.


'Marilyn Monroe's Lips' (1962)

After studying commercial art, Warhol initially worked as an advertiser and designer for a shoe manufacturer. He was an early adopter of silk screen prints, and exhibited his early works at the Bodley Gallery in New York in 1959. While promoting himself as an "anti-artist," he also developed a fascination for repetition in his motifs: shoes, cans, eyes — or the lips of Marilyn Monroe.


'Marilyn Diptych' (1962)

At the beginning of the 1960s, the young commercial artist started making works of everyday objects, inspired by an art dealer who told him to paint whatever meant the most to him. From then on he created stencils of dollar bills, soup cans, telephones or typewriters. Warhol called this a "reproduction of the everyday." Before him, no one had dared call reproductions of such mundane objects art.


'Elvis I and II' (1963/64)

Elvis Presley as a cowboy, Elizabeth Taylor or Marilyn Monroe as a pin-up: Icons of US pop culture were another of Warhol's favorite motifs. These works quickly made him famous in the art scene. In 1962, he exhibited for the first time one of his "Campbell's Soup Cans" paintings: a milestone in art history, establishing Warhol's reputation as the most-renowned pop artist in the United States.


The 1964 silk-screen "Shot Sage Blue Marilyn" is "a universally recognized image burned into the collective conscience — the modern Mona Lisa," according to the Christie's website.

When Sam Hunter included "Shot Sage Blue Marilyn" on the cover of his seminal textbook, Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Warhol's portrait became one of modern art's most familiar icons. "Marilyn is a Masterpiece, not bound to time or place," Christie's said ahead of the auction set to take place on Monday evening at 7 p.m. local time (2300 GMT).

The work comes from the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation in Zurich. All proceeds from the sale will benefit the foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of children around the world. The current record price for a 20th century painting is the $179.4 million paid for Picasso's "Women of Algiers" in 2015. Meanwhile, the most expensive Warhol painting is "Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)", which fetched $104.5 million in 2013.


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