Icon of the last century, Mona Lisa of the twentieth century, a summary of the American dream. Shot Sage Blue Marilyn by Andy Warhol it’s more than just “acrylic and screen printing ink on canvas”. It’s a universally recognized image that has etched itself into the collective consciousness, and now it’s the most expensive work ever auctioned among those made in the 20th century.
Sold for $195 million
On May 9, the magnetic portrait of the American diva created by the pop art poet in 1964 was awarded $195 million in the auction dedicated to the Thomas and Doris Amman collection. A historic charm for an iconic piece. Alex Rotter, president of Christie’s 20th and 21st Century Art Department, had presented it as “the most important painting of the 20th century to be auctioned in a generation”. Emphasizes how the painting “transcends the genre of portraiture and replaces twentieth-century art and culture. Alongside Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Picasso’s Les Demoiselle d’Avignon, it is one of the greatest paintings of all time ».
The paintings “climbed” from Marilyn
Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is the most expensive auctioned work of the 20th century. Second in the standings, dominated by Leonardo’s unrivaled £450m Salvator Mundi. Marilyn surpassed Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O) to 179.4 million, the two milky lying nudes by Modigliani Nu couché (170.4 million) and Nu couché (sur lecôté gauche) (157.2 million) and Three Studies of Lucian Freud (158.2 million) by Francis Bacon. Apparently, Warhol’s own auction record was also shattered: Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) from 1963, sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2013 for $105 million.
The buyer is the gallery owner Larry Gagosian
Based on the actress’ promotional image in the film Niagara, the work embodies a multi-layered imagery that emanates from the status of Marilyn’s icon and achieves the broken promises of the American Dream. It was 1962 when Warhol began his series of portraits dedicated to Monroe. There are four similar to Shot Sage Blue Marilyn. All squares – 1 meter by 1 meter – but each with a different color. The record-breaking version was painted in 1964 and has exhibits at the Guggenheim in New York, the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Tate Modern in London. Mega gallery owner Larry Gagosian bought it and featured it in the room with the special palette dedicated to Marilyn. Because of the symbolic power of the image in question, he is said to be reselling it to a wealthy American customer. Even if the paths of the market are unpredictable.
For the record: in 1962 there were smaller versions (50 x 40 cm) that the artist suggested to the famous gallerist Leo Castelli. Although intrigued by the offer, Castelli chose not to exhibit them because Warhol’s work was too similar to another artist in his gallery: Roy Lichtenstein. With great disappointment the King of Pop-che was eager to work with Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella, all followed by Castelli – decided to exhibit the works at the Stable Gallery in New York. Each canvas costs $250. They have all been sold. At his second exhibition at the Stable Gallery, where he presented the Brillo boxes for the first time, Leo Castelli returned to his steps and began his collaboration with the artist. The picture of Marilyn went viral. An unprecedented pop phenomenon. In 1967 a series of prints depicting the diva sold for $500. Now those who find it are lucky if they find it, for a few million euros. The symbolic load that the symbol has reached is immaterial.
The group of five Marylins
The story of the group of five Marilyns that Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is from is very strange. In 1964, performance artist Dorothy Podber entered the Warhol Factory. She saw four of the five portraits hanging on the walls and was fascinated by them. He then asked Warhol if he could take them back (in English). He agreed. She pulled a pistol from her purse and fired a shot (always fire) between the eyes of the portrayed Marilyns. In his opinion, the play on words resulted in an artistic act. The only one missing and therefore saved was Shot Sage Blue Marilyn. While the restoration wasn’t easy for Warhol, renaming it was a no-brainer. They became exactly the Shot Marilyns. And their value in the market from that moment on was a ride.
In 1967 Peter Brant bought Blue Shot Marilyn for $5,000. In 1989, Los Angeles collector and computer magnate Max Palevsky bought Shot Red Marilyn at auction for $4 million. To be fair he resold it five years later for 3.6 million and lost us. In return Orange Marilyn went into the hands of SI Newhouse for 17 million in 1998, of the CondéNast empire. Even in this case, it was Larry Gagosian who actually made the offer in the room. In 2007, Turquoise Marilyn sold for $80 million. Then in 2018 Orange Marilyn was bought in a private sale by American entrepreneur Kenneth Griffin for between 200 and 250 million. It is likely that Christie’s based the estimate on this sale. Our Shot Sage Blue Marilyn was eventually purchased by New York collector Leon Kraushar. It later passed to the contemporary art dealer Fred Mueller, who bought it in the early 1970s, and again at SI Newhouse. Thomas Ammann, whose foundation had auctioned the work on May 9, finally acquired the portrait in the early 1980s. Whatever the new owner is up to, he’s certainly gotten his hands on a piece of history.