Warhol’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe estimated at $200 million at auction


Andy Warhol’s iconic sage-blue portrait of Marilyn Monroe is set to fetch a record $200 million at auction this spring, Christie’s announced on Monday.

The auction house said it expects Warhol’s 1964 ‘Shot Sage Blue Marilyn’ to become the most expensive work of art of the 20th century when it goes under the hammer in New York in May.

The screen-printed work is part of a group of Warhol portraits of Monroe that became known as the “Shot” series after a visitor to his Manhattan studio, known as “The Factory”, apparently fired a gun at them.

In a statement, Christie’s described the 40-inch (100 centimeters) by 40-inch portrait as “one of the rarest and most transcendent images in existence.”

Alex Rotter, head of 20th and 21st century art at Christie’s, called the portrait “the most important 20th century painting to come to auction in a generation”.

“Andy Warhol’s Marilyn is the absolute pinnacle of American pop and the promise of the American dream encapsulating both optimism, fragility, fame and iconography,” he said in a statement.

Warhol began creating Monroe serigraphs after the actress died of a drug overdose at just 36 in August 1962.

The pop artist made five portraits of Monroe, all of equal size with different colored backgrounds, in 1964.

According to pop-art folklore, four of them rose to prominence after a female performance artist named Dorothy Podber asked Warhol if she could draw a stack of portraits.

Warhol said yes, thinking she meant photographing the works. Instead, she pulled out a gun and shot Monroe in the image’s forehead.

The story goes that the bullet pierced four of the five canvases, with Warhol excluding Podber from The Factory and later repairing the paintings – the “Shot” series.

The “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” portrait depicts her with a pink face, red lips, yellow hair, and blue eye shadow on a sage blue background.

It was based on a promotional photograph of her for the 1953 film “Niagara” directed by Henry Hathaway.


During an unveiling at Christie’s headquarters in Manhattan, Rotter said the portrait stood alongside Sandro Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’, Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and Pablo’s ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’. Picasso as “categorically one of the greatest paintings of all time”. .”

Only 14 paintings have sold for more than $100 million at auction, according to an AFP tally, although others are expected to have changed hands at private sales.

The most expensive 20th-century artwork sold at auction is Picasso’s “Women of Algiers,” which fetched $179.4 million in 2015.

The auction record for a Warhol is $104.5 million paid for “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)” in 2013.

In 1998, Sotheby’s sold Marilyn’s orange photo for $17 million.

Christie’s is selling the work, which will headline its spring sales week, on behalf of the Zurich-based Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation.

All proceeds from the sale will benefit the foundation, which works to improve the lives of children around the world.


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