Warhol’s Marilyn Might Be The Most Expensive 20th-Century Artwork Ever Sold At Auction


Blow Sage Blue Marilyn by Andy Warhol – $200 million at Christie’s New York in May.

On track to be the most expensive 20th century work of art ever sold at auction, it is estimated at around $200 million.

This 1964 version of Marilyn comes to Christie’s from the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation, with all proceeds going to the Zurich children’s charity.

The Ammann siblings were the founders of Thomas Ammann Fine Art, a historic gallery in Zurich that championed artists of the Impressionist, Modern, post-war and contemporary era. Cy Twombly and Brice Marden were among their closest friends.

Christie’s press release announcing the sale was full of superlatives. The portrait is described as “an unparalleled example of 20th century art by America’s foremost artist”, while Alex Rotter, Christie’s 20th and 21st Century Art Chair, adds that alongside Botticelli Birth of Venus, Da Vinci mona-lisa and Picasso The Ladies of Avignon, by Warhol Marilyn is categorically one of the greatest paintings of all time.

Warhol began creating acrylic on linen serigraphs of Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe after her death in August 1962. Although he created several versions, this is one of five different colored versions made in 1964 using a more refined and time-consuming screen printing technique. They take their name from a famous story: when ‘bad girl’ performance artist Dorothy Podber saw four Marilyns stacked in Warhol’s studio, she pulled a pistol from her purse and blew a hole ball in the webs. The canvases have been restored and Podber forbidden to return.

In 1989, Christie’s sold Red Marilyn Blow for 4.01 million dollars, a painting which in 1994 was resold for 3.6 million dollars. Blow Orange Marilyn of the series sold at Sotheby’s in 1998 for $17.3 million and has since been sold privately for a sum close to that demanded by Christie’s for its sage blue version.

A sale at the dizzying height of $200 million would double the current auction record for a Warhol – $105 million for Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) sold at Sotheby’s in 2013 – and would eclipse the previous peak for 20th century art at auction – Pablo Picasso’s 1955 Women of Algiers sold for $179.4 million in 2015.

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