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ONE OF A KIND

A portrait of Marilyn Monroe could break the auction record for 20th century art

Andy Warhol's "Shot Sage Blue Marilyn".
Reuters/Carlo Allegri
Andy Warhol’s “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn”.
Published

Christie’s is aiming to set a new record for 20th century art with the sale of a Marilyn Monroe painting by Andy Warhol. The auction house estimates the piece, which features one of the most recognizable images of the actress, could fetch $200 million or more when it hits the block in May.

The current titleholder for most expensive 20th century artwork sold at auction is Picasso’s Women of Algiers, which went for $179.4 million in 2015.

If successful, the sale would also approximately double Warhol’s current auction record of $105.4 million set nine years ago when Sotheby’s sold Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster). However, the dizzying price tag is not without precedent—an orange version of this Monroe portrait series reportedly went to hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin for more than $200 million in a private sale. In 1998, Sotheby’s sold the orange Monroe portrait for $17 million.

There are five similar versions of this Monroe series, each painted in a different color. The one for sale, known as the Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, is called so because in 1964 artist Dorothy Podber asked Warhol if she could shoot the stack of four Monroe paintings. Thinking she meant to photograph the works, Warhol agreed and Podber fired her revolver into the artworks.

The painting comes from the collection of late Swiss gallerist siblings Thomas and Doris Amman, with all proceeds going to their foundation to benefit children’s causes.

$200 million sale would put Warhol next to Da Vinci

If the Monroe piece nets $200 million, it would make it the second most expensive artwork overall to sell at auction, after Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi was bought for $450 million, far exceeding its $100 million original asking price.

Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of 20th and 21st century art, called Warhol’s Monroe portrait “categorically one of the greatest paintings of all time” and said it stood alongside Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

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