Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn” sells for $ 195 million, sets the American record

A woman snaps a photo of Andy Warhol’s “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” during the press preview of Christie’s 20th and 21st Century Art 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 Monday night, making it the most expensive American artwork ever sold.

The price suggests that the art market, at least at the very high end, is largely resisting the pressures of falling stocks and rising interest rates. Christie’s and Sotheby’s plans to sell more than $ 2 billion worth of art in the next two weeks and the historic price of the “Marilyn” could boost wealthy buyers’ confidence in more works.

Although slightly below the $ 200 million estimate and well below the whispering $ 250 million to $ 300 million pricing that many retailers were hoping for, the sale is still seen as a vote of confidence for art as a store of value. long-term amid volatile market cycles. The buyer has not been identified.

“This shows that quality and scarcity will always advance the market,” said Andrew Fabricant, chief operating officer of Gagosian Galleries and a leading retailer for the rich. “It will give a psychological impact 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 bright 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 time,” Fabricant said. “Everyone in the world knew when these paintings were made, the story of Marilyn Monroe, the epic loss and the epic conquest. And Warhol himself was starting to become an icon. So they are two icons at their peak.”

The portraits were based on a promotional photo of Monroe from the movie “Niagara”. The portraits became even more famous when, shortly after they were completed, a woman walked into the Warhol’s Factory studio with a gun and shot a stack of four of them. The “sage blue” painting escaped damaged and the others were repaired. But the shooting added to their charm and became part of their headlines.

The version sold on Monday was owned by a family of Swiss art dealers, the Ammanns, who have owned it since the early 1980s. The proceeds will go to charity. The Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation in Zurich said it will 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 artwork ever auctioned, it is the second most expensive artwork ever sold at auction, behind Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” sold by Christie’s in 2017 for $ 450 million and more of Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger”, which sold for $ 179 million in 2015.

Unlike most of the overpriced works sold at auction, “Marilyn” was not sold with a guarantee, which is a minimum price at which a third party or auction house agrees to purchase the work. The retailers say the sellers wanted to maximize the charitable proceeds, and the guarantees typically require the sellers to forgo some of the upside price above the guaranteed amount.

“This was a once in a generation opportunity,” Fabricant said. “Pieces like this don’t come around that often.”