A woman takes a photo of Andy Warhol’s ‘Shot Sage Blue Marilyn’ during Christie’s 20th and 21st Century Art Press Preview at Christie’s New York on April 29, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images
Andy Warhol’s 1964 portrait of Marilyn Monroe sold for $195 million at Christie’s on Monday night, becoming the most expensive American work of art ever sold.
The price suggests that the art market, at least at the very high end, is largely resilient to pressures from falling inventories and rising interest rates. Christie’s and Sotheby’s expect to sell more than $2 billion worth of artwork over the next two weeks, and the historic price of the “Marilyn” could boost confidence among wealthy buyers for other works.
Although slightly below the $200 million estimate and well below the whispered prices of $250-300 million that many dealers were hoping for, the sale is still seen as a vote of confidence in the art as as a long-term store of value in the midst of volatile market cycles. . The buyer has not been identified.
“It shows that quality and rarity are always going to drive the market forward,” Andrew Fabricator, chief operating officer of Gagosian Galleries and one of the wealthy’s top dealers, told CNBC ahead of the sale. “It’s going to give a psychological bump to everyone’s thinking.”
The Marilyn, known as “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn”, was one of five versions in different color combinations that Warhol painted in 1964, two years after Marilyn Monroe’s death. With its vivid colors and captivating expression, the portraits have become some of Warhol’s most iconic and famous images. An orange version was recently sold to hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin for over $200 million.
“It’s the Mount Everest of its day,” Maker said. “When these paintings were done, everyone in the world knew the story of Marilyn Monroe, the epic loss and the epic accomplishment. And Warhol himself was starting to become an icon. So these are two icons in their heyday .”
The portraits were based on a promotional photo of Monroe from the movie “Niagara.” The portraits became even more famous when, shortly after their completion, a woman walked into Warhol’s Factory studio with a gun and shot a stack of four of them. The “sage blue” paint escaped damaged and the others were repaired. But the filming added to their appeal and became part of their titles.
The version sold on Monday belonged to a family of Swiss art dealers, the Ammanns, who have owned it since the early 1980s. Proceeds will go to charity. The Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation in Zurich said it would use the funds to support health and education programs for children around the world.
In addition to breaking the record for the most expensive American work of art ever sold at auction, it is the second most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, behind Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” which sold at Christie’s in 2017 for $450 million and more Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger”, sold for $179 million in 2015.
Unlike most hyper-expensive works sold at auction, “Marilyn” was not sold with a guarantee, which is a minimum price at which a third party or the auction house agrees to buy the work. Dealers say sellers wanted to maximize the proceeds for charity, and warranties typically require sellers to give up some of the upside in price above the guaranteed amount.
“It was a once-in-a-generation chance,” Maker said. “Pieces like this just don’t come around that often.”