A famous Andy Warhol silkscreen print of Marilyn Monroe sold for $195 million at a Christie’s charity auction on Monday night, setting a record for the most expensive American work of art ever sold.
Warhol’s iconic painting broke the previous record set by the late Brooklyn artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 untitled skull painting, which fetched $110.5 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York in 2017. Warhol had held the record before Basquiat after his 1963 work “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)” sold for $105.4 million in 2013.
The auction house valued Warhol’s 1964 painting at $200 million before the event. The identity of the successful bidder was not immediately revealed.
All proceeds from lot 36A will go to the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation in Zurich, which put the painting up for auction. The foundation aims to help children with health care and educational programs.
On a blue background with bright red lips, the image of the beloved actress has been exhibited in museums around the world.
The painting has a fascinating history. Originally one of five serigraphs painted in 1964, the 40-by-40-inch prints were stored in a pile at Warhol’s New York studio, The Factory.
According to performance artist Artsy, Dorothy Podber stopped and asked if she could “film” them, and he said yes, assuming she meant with a camera. Podber pulled out a revolver and shot all but the turquoise print on the forehead.
Warhol had all four paintings restored and they became known as the “Shot Marilyns”.
The five paintings have been sold for varying sums of money over the years. First, in 1967, the blue background painting sold for $5,000. The orange bottom sold for $17.3 million in 1998, then went to hedge fund manager Ken Griffin for over $200 million.
“‘Shot Sage Blue Marilyn’ is the absolute pinnacle of American pop,” said Alex Rotter, president of 20th and 21st century art at Christie’s, of the piece. “Painting transcends the genre of portraiture, supplanting 20th century art and culture. Alongside Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’, Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselle d’Avignon’, Warhol’s ‘Marilyn’ is one of the greatest paintings of all time. .