May 28, 2022

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$195M Marilyn Portrait Sale Makes Andy Warhol the Most Expensive US Artist

Andy Warhol’s famous portrait of Marilyn Monroe is now the most expensive 20th century artwork, and the highest-priced by a US artist, to be sold at auction. The famous painting titled Shot Sage Blue Marilyn was sold in New York for $195 million on Monday.

Christie’s auction house sold the 1964 silkscreen painting to an unnamed bidder. It was one of 35 items up for sale from the collection of art dealers Thomas Ammann, who died in 1993, and his sister Doris Ammann, who died in 2021. The collection, which included work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cy Twombly, Ann Craven and Alberto Giacometti, sold for a total of $317.8 million (or $273 million after auctioneer fees). Proceeds will go to the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zurich, which supports health care and educational programs for underprivileged children.

Warhol’s instantly recognizable 1964 silkscreen image shows actor and singer Marilyn Monroe in vibrant yellow, red, pink and blue. It’s part of a series of differently-colored versions of the same image, which bear the name because a stack of them were shot by Dorothy Podher, one of Warhol’s contemporaries in the New York art scene.  

The previous most expensive 20th century work was Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”). And the previous most expensive US artist was Basquiat for his 1982 painting Untitled. While Shot Sage Blue Marilyn was the most expensive sold at auction, The Art Newspaper reports that another Marilyn previously sold for $250 million in a private sale. The most expensive artwork ever, meanwhile, is currently Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which fetched $450.3 million at auction in 2017.