An Andy Warhol Marilyn Monroe painting sold for $195 million. Why is it so popular?
Andy Warhol’s iconic portrait of Marilyn Monroe is now the most expensive work by a U.S. artist to sell at an auction
Andy Warhol’s iconic portrait of Marilyn Monroe — featuring vibrant blond hair, blue eyeshadow and dark red lipstick — is now the most expensive work by a U.S. artist to sell at an auction.
How much did Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe painting sell for?
“Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” recently sold for $195 million — in under four minutes of bidding, The New York Times reported. The purchase — now the most expensive piece from the 20th century to be auctioned — dethroned the previous record of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 skull painting “Untitled,” which sold for $110.5 million in 2017, according to The Associated Press.
An unknown buyer purchased Warhol’s 40-inch-by-40-inch painting, which Christie’s auction house in New York initially estimated could go for as much as $200 million, according to The Associated Press. But speculation ahead of the auction had the potential bid as high as $400 million, The New York Times reported.
- “Expectation was very, very, very high,” art adviser Abigail Asher told The New York Times. “It was an incredibly healthy price, but at the same time I believe the buyer got a deal. It’s one of the icons of 20th-century art.”
- “It’s an amazing price,” said Alex Rotter, chairman of Christie’s 20th and 21st century art department, per The Associated Press. “Let it sink in, it’s quite something.”
The history of ‘Shot Sage Blue Marilyn’
Warhol created “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” two years after the actress’ death — one of five versions he created in 1964, CNBC reported. The idea for the different colored portraits stemmed from a promotional photograph Monroe used for the 1953 film “Niagara.”
- “It’s the Mount Everest of its era,” art dealer Andrew Fabricant told CNBC. “Everyone in the world when these paintings were made knew the story of Marilyn Monroe, the epic loss and the epic achievement. And Warhol himself was beginning to become an icon. So it’s two icons at their height.”
The paintings grew in popularity when, not long after they were completed, performance artist Dorothy Podber entered Warhol’s Factory studio and asked the artist if she could shoot them. Thinking Podber was referring to a camera, Warhol obliged and was shocked when Podber fired a gun at the portraits. The turquoise one was the only painting not in the stack and avoided damage, while the other paintings received repairs, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
What is the most a painting has ever sold for?
While Warhol’s “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” is the most expensive American artwork to ever sell at an auction, the overall record goes to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” painting, which sold for $450 million in 2017, Axios reported.
Warhol’s other “Marilyn” paintings have sold for various prices over the years. His “Shot Red Marilyn” went to a Japanese art collector for $4 million in 1989, while his “Orange Marilyn” sold for $17 million in 1998 — later selling for $200 million in 2018, Artsy reported.
Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe artwork is at BYU
Warhol’s “Marilyn” pieces are exhibited in museums around the world — including Brigham Young University’s Museum of Art.
Warhol published a Marilyn Monroe portfolio in 1967, featuring 10 screenprints of the actress, according to MoMa.org. All 10 prints are based on the photograph that inspired his 1964 paintings, and they can be viewed at BYU’s Museum of Art.
- “The film star’s widespread allure and tragic demise fascinated the artist, as well as the American public,” the museum’s website states. “(Warhol) places her at a scale that breaches personal space and also utilizes brash colors that mimic the flawed tints on 1960s color television. In doing so, Warhol’s print image erodes Marilyn’s humanity and implies the commodity nature of celebrity, where the starlet’s image and identity are consumed by an obsessive public.”