Warhol’s ‘Shot Sage Blue Marilyn’ fetches record $195 million at auction at Christie’s

Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

This story was updated with the final sale price and other details after the auction.

One of Andy Warhol’s iconic Marilyn Monroe portraits has become the most expensive 20th century work of art ever to go under the hammer.

The 40-square-inch ‘Shot Sage Blue Marilyn’, one of dozens of images the artist made of Monroe in the 1960s, sold for a record $195 million at Christie’s in New York Monday evening.

Prior to the sale, Christie’s had described “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” as “one of the rarest and most transcendent images in existence”. It has already been exhibited in galleries such as the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Center Pompidou in Paris and the Tate Modern in London.

The auction house initially said it expected bids “in the range of” $200 million.

Andy Warhol photographed in 1968 at the factory at 33 Union Square West. (Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images) Credit: Jack Mitchell/File Photos/Getty Images

Warhol’s colorful reproductions of Monroe’s photo portrait — originally an advertisement for his 1953 film “Niagara” — are among his most recognizable works, alongside his iconic paintings of Campbell’s soup cans.

Using a technique called screen printing, which duplicates images on paper or canvas using a layer of fine-mesh silk like a stencil, he began creating them in 1962, shortly after Monroe’s death. As with his depictions of other famous people, including Elvis Presley and Chinese leader Mao Zedong, the pop artist created many versions of Monroe’s portrait in different colors and configurations.

Among the best known is “Marilyn Diptych”, owned by British gallery group Tate, which saw Warhol print a grid of 50 portraits on two canvases. Elsewhere, the Museum of Modern Art’s “Gold Marilyn Monroe” features a single image printed against a gold background, while “Shot Marilyns” saw the artist shoot portraits of the star through the head with bullets.

In 1964 he developed a new “more refined and time-consuming” process that was “antithetical to the mass production for which he was best known”, according to Christie’s. That year he used it to create a limited number of portraits – a rare group of works to which “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” belongs – before abandoning the technique.


While a handful of paintings have reportedly attracted more than $200 million in private sales (including works by Abstract Expressionist painters Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock), the feat has only been achieved once at auction. — by Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”, sold in 2017 for over $450 million. The previous auction record for a 20th-century painting was the $179.4 million paid for Pablo Picasso’s “The Women of Algiers (Version O)” in 2015.
The auction record for a work by Warhol was previously held by ‘Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)’, which depicts the mutilated aftermath of a car crash and sold for over $105 million almost 100 years ago. ‘a decade. Several of The artist’s other images of Marilyn have also attracted huge sums at auction in recent years, with 1962’s “White Marilyn” selling for $41 million in New York in 2014.

“Shot Sage Blue Marilyn”, meanwhile, belonged to a succession of renowned gallery owners and collectors before being purchased by the late Swiss art dealer Thomas Ammann. The portrait was offered for auction by Zurich’s Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation, the charity set up in his (and his sister’s) name, which will use the proceeds to fund health and education programs for children around the world, according to a press release.

Related video: Why is art so expensive?

In a press release before the sale, Christie’s Chairman for 20th and 21st Century Art Alex Rotter described the work as “the absolute pinnacle of American pop” and “the most important 20th century painting to come to auction in a generation. “.

“Next to Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’, Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’, Warhol’s ‘Marilyn’ is categorically one of the greatest paintings of all. time,” he added.

The artwork was one of four Warhols in the Ammanns’ collection up for sale at Monday night’s auction. One of his famous ‘Flowers’ serigraphs fetched $15.8 million, and ‘GE/Skull’, which he created in collaboration with the late Jean-Michel Basquiat, fetched over $4.6 million. of dollars. Warhol’s “Heinz Tomato Ketchup Box” sculpture meanwhile sold for over $478,000.

Elsewhere, works by Robert Ryman, Alberto Giacometti and Lucian Freud also went under the hammer. Two of the biggest sales were paintings by American artist Cy Twombly, ‘Untitled’ and ‘Venere Sopra Gaeta’, which fetched $21 million and nearly $17 million respectively.

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