Warhol’s “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” could be sold at Christie’s for a record $200 million.

Written Oscar Holland, CNN

One of Andy Warhol’s iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe could be the most expensive piece of 20th-century art ever to go under the hammer, with auctioneer Christie’s expecting a bid “in the region” of $200 million.

The 40-square-inch Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, one of dozens of images of Monroe made by the artist in the 1960s, will go on sale in New York this May, the auction house announced on Monday.

Warhol’s colorful reproductions of the Hollywood star’s portrait — originally a publicity shot from her 1953 film Niagara — are among his most recognizable works, along with his signature images of Campbell’s soup cans.

American pop artist Andy Warhol at his New York studio Factory in 1983. Credit: Brownie Harris/Corbis/Getty Images

Using a technique called silkscreening, which duplicates images on paper or canvas using a layer of fine-meshed silk as a stencil, he began producing them in 1962, shortly after Monroe’s death. As with images of other famous personalities, including Elvis Presley and Chinese leader Mao Zedong, the pop artist has created many versions of Monroe’s portrait in various colors and configurations.

Among the most famous is the Marilyn Diptych, owned by the British gallery group Tate, where Warhol printed the painting. grid of 50 portraits on two canvases. Elsewhere, the Museum of Modern Art’s “Golden Marilyn Monroe” is a single image printed against a gold background, while “Shot Marilyn” shows the artist shooting portraits of the star with bullets in the head.

In 1964, he developed a “better and more labor-intensive” new process that Christie’s said was “at odds with the mass production for which he was best known.” That same year, he used it to create a limited number of portraits—a rare group of works to which Shot Sage Blue Marilyn belongs—before abandoning the technique.

"Shot Sage Blue Marilyn" Andy Warhole.

“Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” by Andy Warhol. Credit: Christie’s

Several paintings are believed to have attracted price tags in excess of $200 million in private sales (including works by Abstract Expressionist artists). Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock), although this feat has only been achieved once at auction, with Leonardo da Vinci’s The Savior of the World, which sold for more than $450 million in 2017. The current auction record for a 20th-century painting is $179.4 million paid for Pablo Picasso’s Women of Algiers (Version O) in 2015.
The current auction record for a Warhol work is “Silver Car Crash (Double Crash)”, which depicts the crippled aftermath of a road collision after it was sold for over $105 million almost a decade ago. Some of his images of Marilyn have also attracted huge sums at auction in recent years: the 1962 “White Marilyn” sold for $41 million in New York in 2014.

In the meantime, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn was owned by a string of famous gallery owners and collectors before it was bought by the late Swiss art dealer Thomas Ammann. He is up for auction by the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation in Zurich, a charity set up on his (and his sister’s) behalf that will use the proceeds to fund health and education programs for children around the world, according to a press release.

Related video: Why is art so expensive?

Described by Christie’s as “one of the rarest and most outstanding images in existence”, the portrait has been exhibited in galleries including the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Pompidou Center in Paris and London’s Tate Modern.

In a press statement, Christie’s chairman of 20th and 21st century art, Alex Rotter, called the work “the absolute pinnacle of American pop” and “the most significant 20th-century painting to be auctioned in a generation.”

“Along with Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Picasso’s Avignon Girls, Warhol’s Marilyn is unquestionably one of the greatest paintings of all time,” he added, “and it’s once in a generation the opportunity to publicly present this masterpiece is up for auction.

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