She was THE film star of her day, and at the auction on 9th May 2022 at Christie’s New York, she proved that her star power was as strong as ever!
In under four minutes of bidding, Andy Warhol’s 1964 painting of Marilyn Monroe, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, sold for $195,000,000 to an unknown buyer, making it the highest price achieved for any American work of art at auction – comfortably beating the world record of $110,500,000 that Basquiat’s Untitled, 1982 made at a Sotheby’s auction in New York in 2017.
Described as ‘the most significant 20th-century painting to come to auction in a generation’, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is one of only 5 works Warhol produced in this series – each in different colour variations.
The paintings were stored at The Factory, his studio on East 47th Street, Manhattan. It was here that the artist, Dorothy Podber, stopped by and asked Warhol if she could “shoot” them. Presuming she meant with a camera, he said yes, but instead she pulled out a revolver and shot all but the turquoise print in the forehead! Warhol had the four paintings restored and they became known as the “Shot Marilyns.”
The work was the undoubted and much-anticipated star lot of the Christie’s Monday sale, which itself kicked off New York’s spring season of mega auctions. As such, it was always going to attract huge interest, eventually selling to Larry Gagosian for an undisclosed client.
The sale itself was made up of 36 lots consigned from the estate of the legendary Swiss dealers Thomas and Doris Ammann, with all of the proceeds going toward their foundation, which supports health care and educational programs for children. Interestingly and very old school in approach, none of the works were backed by financial guarantees, which is a system whereby the auction houses provide sellers with a minimum price at which a third party or the auction house has committed to purchase the work even if it fails to sell on the day.
Perhaps a risky approach one might think, however, after 2 years of pent-up demand from collectors, and with huge amounts of money sloshing around, and with such star works on offer, it was a risk well worth taking, with the overall sale achieving $318,000,000 for the Ammann charitable foundation. Lucky them!
It all goes to show that quality will always win out, and the best works will always achieve the strongest prices. That said, having Marilyn on your side can’t hurt either!