This story was updated with the final sale price and other details following the auction.
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 previously been shown at galleries including the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and London’s Tate Modern.
The auction house had initially said it was expecting bids “in the region 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/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Warhol’s colorful reproductions of Monroe’s photo portrait — originally a publicity still from her 1953 movie “Niagara” — are among his most recognizable works, alongside his signature paintings of Campbell’s soup cans.
Using a technique called silkscreen 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 figures, including Elvis Presley and Chinese leader Mao Zedong, the Pop artist created numerous versions of Monroe’s portrait in various different colors and configurations.
In 1964, he developed a “more refined and time-intensive” new process that was “antithetical to the mass production he was best known for,” 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.
“Shot Sage Blue Marilyn,” meanwhile, was owned by a succession of high-profile gallerists and collectors before being purchased by the late Swiss art dealer Thomas Ammann. The portrait was offered for auction by the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zurich, the charitable organization set up in his (and his sister’s) name, which will use the proceeds to fund health and education programs for children worldwide, according to a press release.
Related video: Why is art so expensive?
“Standing alongside 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 on sale at Monday evening’s auction. One of his famous “Flowers” silkscreen paintings went for $15.8 million, and “GE/Skull,” which he created in collaboration with the late Jean-Michel Basquiat, fetched over $4.6 million. Warhol’s sculpture “Heinz Tomato Ketchup Box” meanwhile sold for more than $478,000.
Elsewhere, works by Robert Ryman, Alberto Giacometti and Lucian Freud also went under the hammer. Two of the biggest sellers were paintings by American artist Cy Twombly, “Untitled” and “Venere Sopra Gaeta,” which fetched $21 million and almost $17 million respectively.