Blue eyeshadow, pink face, yellow hair, that’s how Marilyn Monroe looks in an Andy Warhol screenprint. The picture set a record at an auction at Christie’s in New York on Monday night. At $195 million, the bid went to art dealer Larry Gagosian.
Gagosian was personally in the full hall. It is not known whether the New Yorker bought the picture for his Blue Chip gallery or on behalf of a client. Warhol’s “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn”, measuring almost one meter by one meter, is the most expensive work of art from the 20th century ever auctioned.
It came from the possession of the Swiss art dealer and Warhol friend Thomas Ammann and his sister Doris and was auctioned off at a charity auction for the benefit of children. The previous record for a 20th-century work was Pablo Picasso’s The Women of Algiers (Version 0), which changed hands in 2015 for $179 million.
And Warhol surpassed himself too. In 2013, someone was willing to pay $105 million for his Silver Car Crash (double disaster) screenprint of a car crash. Until then, the highest price for a work by the pop artist.
A screen print with a special story
Warhol discovered screen printing for his art in the early 1960s; he, who used to work as an illustrator for luxury brands, found favor with the principle of cheap duplication, a process that had previously been used more in the advertising and industrial sectors. And because Warhol was enthusiastic about glamor and mass phenomena, he chose not only soup cans and James Dean but also a photo of the Hollywood legend Marilyn as a motif for his multicolored screen prints, which were reproduced in large numbers.
The image is one of five in a series and is based on a promotional photo of the actress from the movie “Niagara”. The special thing about it is a story from Warhol’s studio.
In 1964, artist Dorothy Podber allegedly entered Warhol’s Factory with a pistol and shot at a stack of four Marilyn paintings. The canvas, which was auctioned at Christie’s, is one of the “Shot Marilyn portraits” but was not penetrated by the bullet.
However, the sale price cannot be justified by the importance and quality of the work alone. “A lot has been held back for two years, and there’s a tremendous amount of catching up to do with new clients,” Philip Hoffman of consultancy Fine Art Group told the New York Times. “Everyone has been waiting for the right time, and it has now come.” Gallerist Thaddaeus Ropac describes the situation as “a lot of appetite”, “a lot of money” and “a lot of quality”. However, the result is not completely unleashed. The estimated price was 200 million dollars, the result is slightly lower. That must have disappointed many an auction professional. Birgit Rieger