(CNN) – One of Andy Warhol’s The iconic portrait of Marilyn Monroe is the most expensive work of art of the 20th century to ever go under the hammer.
The 40-square-inch Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, one of dozens of paintings the artist took of Monroe in the 1960s, sold Monday night at Christie’s in New York for a record $195 million.
Prior to the sale, Christie’s had described “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” as “one of the rarest and most transcendent images in existence.” It has previously been shown at galleries such as the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Center Pompidou in Paris and the Tate Modern in London.
The auction house originally said it expected bids “in the order of” $200 million.
Warhol’s colorful reproductions of Monroe’s photographic portrait—originally a promotional still from her 1953 film Niagara—are among his best-known works, along with his signature paintings of Campbell’s soup cans.
Using a technique called screen printing, in which images are duplicated on paper or canvas with a layer of finely woven silk like a stencil, he began creating in 1962, shortly after Monroe’s death. As with his depictions of other famous people, including Elvis Presley and Chinese leader Mao Zedong, the pop artist created numerous versions of Monroe’s portrait in different colors and configurations.
One of the best known is “Marilyn Diptych”, owned by the British gallery group Tate, in which Warhol et al Grid of 50 portraits over two canvases. Elsewhere, the Museum of Modern Art’s “Gold Marilyn Monroe” shows a single image printed against a gold background, while “Shot Marilyns” saw the artist putting bullets through the head of portraits of the star.
In 1964 he developed a “more sophisticated and time-consuming” new process which Christie’s says “was in contrast to the mass production for which he was best known”. He used it for a limited number of portraits that year – a rare body of work that includes Shot Sage Blue Marilyn – before abandoning the technique.
A handful of paintings are believed to have fetched over $200 million in private sales (including works by Abstract Expressionist painters). Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock), the feat has only been accomplished once at auction – by Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” which sold for 2017 over $450 million. The previous auction record for a 20th-century painting was the $179.4 million paid for Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O) in 2015.
The auction record for a Warhol work was previously held by Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), which depicts the mangled aftermath of a road accident, for which it was sold more than $105 million almost a decade ago. Several of The artist’s other Marilyn paintings have also attracted huge sums at auction in recent years, with 1962’s ‘White Marilyn’ selling for them $41 million 2014 in New York.
Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, on the other hand, was owned by a number of high profile gallery owners and collectors before being purchased by the late Swiss art dealer Thomas Ammann. The portrait was auctioned off by the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zurich, the non-profit organization set up in his (and his sister’s) name that will use the proceeds to fund health and education programs for children worldwide, according to a press release.
In a press release ahead of the sale, Christie’s Chair for 20th and 21st Century Art, Alexander Rotherdescribed the work as “the absolute pinnacle of American pop” and “the most important painting of the 20th century to be auctioned in a generation”.
“Alongside Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’, Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’, Warhol’s ‘Marilyn’ is categorically one of the greatest paintings of all time,” he added.
The artwork was one of four Warhols in the Ammanns’ collection put up for sale at Monday night’s auction. One of his famous screenprints, Flowers, fetched $15.8 million, and GE/Skull, which he created in collaboration with the late Jean-Michel Basquiat, fetched over $4.6 million. Warhol’s sculpture “Heinz Tomato Ketchup Box” has since sold for more than $478,000.
Elsewhere, works by Robert Ryman, Alberto Giacometti and Lucian Freud also went under the hammer. Two of the biggest sales were paintings by American artist Cy Twombly, “Untitled” and “Venere Sopra Gaeta,” which grossed $21 million and nearly $17 million, respectively.
The CNN Wire
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