Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe painting fetches $195 million at auction

A famous screenprint by Andy Warhol of Marilyn Monroe sold for $195 million at a Christie’s charity auction on Monday night, setting a record for the most expensive American work of art ever sold.

The iconic Warhol painting broke the previous record set by the late Brooklyn artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 untitled skull painting, which fetched $110.5 million at a Sotheby’s sale in New York in 2017. Warhol had held the record before Basquiat after his 1963 work Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) sold for $105.4 million in 2013.

The auction house valued Warhol’s 1964 painting at $200 million before the event. The identity of the successful bidder was not immediately disclosed.

The entire proceeds of lot 36A will go to the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zurich, which auctioned the painting. The goal of the foundation is to help children with health and education programs.

Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is hanging on the wall
A view of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe painting entitled ‘Shot Sage Blue Marilyn’ during the March 21 announcement of the proposed auction at Christie’s.
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Against a blue background with bright red lips, the image of the popular actress has been exhibited in museums around the world.

The painting has an intriguing backstory. Originally one of five silkscreens painted in 1964, the 40 x 40 inch prints were kept in a stack at Warhol’s New York studio, The Factory.

According to Artsy, performance artist Dorothy Podber stopped by and asked if she could “take a picture” of her, and he said yes, assuming she meant with a camera. Podber pulled out a revolver and shot everything but the turquoise cast in the forehead.

Warhol had the four paintings restored and they became known as the “Shot Marilyns”.

All five paintings have sold for various amounts of money over the years. First, in 1967, the painting with a blue background sold for $5,000. The orange background sold for $17.3 million in 1998 and then went to hedge fund manager Ken Griffin for reportedly over $200 million.

“‘Shot Sage Blue Marilyn’ is the pinnacle of American pop,” said Alex Rotter, Chair of Christie’s 20th and 21st Century Arts, of the play. “The painting transcends the genre of portraiture and replaces the art and culture of the 20th century. Alongside Botticelli’s The 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.”

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