Arts & Entertainment

At $195mn, Warhol’s Marilyn becomes most expensive 20th-century painting

By Javier Otazu

New York, May 10 (EFE).- A famous Andy Warhol silkscreen of Marilyn Monroe has fetched $195 million at Christie’s, breaking the world auction record for the most expensive 20th-century work.

However, the 1964 artwork that has since turned into a globally recognizable icon did not meet the auction house estimates of $200 million.

The “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” went under the hammer at Christie’s on Monday night to surpass the global auction record for a 20th-century work of art, held previously by the $179.4 million that Pablo Picasso’s 1955 painting “Les Femmes d’Alger” fetched in 2015.

Warhol’s (101X101 centimeters) reached $195.04 million, including taxes.

The identity of the buyer is unknown. The seller was the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation.

The foundation has promised to allocate the proceeds from Monday’s sale – of the Marilyn and 35 other works – for various global projects like health, education, and promotion and improvement of the lives of millions of children.

Christie’s compares Marilyn’s half-smile with the enigmatic Mona Lisa of Leonardo da Vinci, even relating it to the Venus de Milo and the bust of Nefertiti.

“Through Andy Warhol, Marilyn is both the epitome of the American dream and a universally recognized image burned into the collective conscience — the modern Mona Lisa.”

There is no doubt Warhol’s picture of Marilyn became more famous than the photograph from the “Niagara” (1953) that inspired the artwork.

Warhol reproduced the film poster in 1964 with what he described as “violent colors,” two years after Marilyn’s death.

“I do not feel I am representing the main sex symbols of our time in some of my pictures, such as Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor,” Warhol famously said.

“I just see Monroe as just another person. As for whether it is symbolical to paint Monroe in such violent colors: it is beautiful, and she is beautiful, and if something is beautiful, it is pretty colors, that is all.”

Alex Rotter, chairman of 20th and 21st-century art at Christie’s described “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” as the “absolute pinnacle” of American Pop.

“The painting transcends the genre of portraiture, superseding 20th century art and culture. Standing alongside Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and Picasso’s Les Demoiselle d’Avignon, Warhol’s Marilyn is one of the greatest paintings of all time.”

Warhol had created five 1964 silkscreen Marilyns, including “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” – all strictly identical but colored differently. What sets them apart is the background hue outlining the actress’ head.

The painting has a backstory to share. It was stored in a stack at Warhol’s New York studio, The Factory, with other iconic Marilyn silkscreens.

Dorothy Podber, a performance artist, stopped by and asked if she could “shoot” them.

Andy permitted her, thinking she wanted to “shoot some photos” with her camera.

She showed up the next day with a revolver and shot at the Marilyn canvases.

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