Culture / Auctions

Warhol’s ‘Blue Marilyn’ Poised To Fetch US$200M And Set New Records

Pop artist Andy Warhol’s blue silkscreen portrait of Marilyn Monroe hits the auction block this spring with an asking price of US$200 million, poised to become the most expensive 20th-century artwork.

Mar 22, 2022 | By Cleo Yong
andy warhol's shot sage blue marilyn
Image: Christie’s

On 21 March, Christie’s announced its plans to offer Andy Warhol’s 1964 ‘Shot Sage Blue Marilyn’ for an estimated US$200 million in New York this May. The silkscreen portrait of the iconic Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe is expected to become the most expensive 20th-century artwork.

According to Christie’s, the artwork is reported by Wall Street Journal to have the largest asking price for any at auctions on art pieces. If the sale reaches expectations, it could double Warhol’s current record of US$105.4 million when his 1963 canvas ‘Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)’ sold in 2013 at Sotheby’s, according to ARTnews.

The British auction house is selling the notable work on behalf of the Zurich-based Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation, at the estate of the Swiss sibling art dealers. All proceeds will benefit the namesake foundation in improving healthcare and education for children worldwide. Eventually, the sale of the painting will account for the highest-grossing philanthropic auction since Peggy and David Rockefeller’s US$832 million collection in 2018.

Shot Marilyns

The acclaimed pop artist first began creating silkscreens of Monroe after her death in August 1962. Warhol made four portraits, known as the ‘Shot Marilyns’, all equally sized but with different background colours. The orange Marilyn was sold for US$17 million by Sotheby’s in 1998.

Before Thomas Ammann acquired the piece in the 1970s, it belonged to publisher and storied collector S.I. Newhouse. The work has been exhibited widely at leading institutions, including the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Tate Modern in London, Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, as well as Riehen and the Pasadena Art Museum.

andy warhol's shot sage blue marilyn
Image: Christie’s

For ‘Shot Sage Blue Marilyn’, Warhol took a photo from Henry Hathaway’s 1953 ‘Niagara’ film and then presented Monroe with a pink face, ruby lips, yellow hair and blue eye shadow against a sage-blue backdrop.

Christie’s chairman of 20th- and 21st-century art, Alex Rotter, remarked that the artwork is one of the greatest paintings of all time — alongside Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Picasso’s Les Demoiselle d’Avignon.

“The most significant 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 optimism, fragility, celebrity and iconography all at once.” Rotter adds that the Marilyn piece supersedes 20th-century art and culture, going beyond the genre of portraiture in America.

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