Collectors from 29 different countries gathered for this historic moment. At 8:36pm on Monday, May 9th, Christie’s New York set a record-breaking auction with the collection of gallerists Thomas and Doris Ammann. A close-up portrait of Marilyn Monroe with candy pink skin and blond hair made by Andy Warhol became the most expensive 20th-century artwork to be ever sold at auction. It took four minutes only for the canvas Shot Sage Blue Marilyn (1964) to reach the excessive amount of $195 million, thus breaking the previous record held by Pablo Picasso’s Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) (1932) auctioned at $103 million last year. According to the American press, the well-known New York art dealer Larry Gagosian would have bought the one-meter large work, without giving any detail about whether the artwork was meant for a private buyer or not. One thing is certain, a part of the profits will be shared with charities providing medical and educational services to children.
The artwork was sold from the private estate of late Swiss art dealers and siblings Thomas and Doris Ammann. Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is part of a five-work serigraph and reveals the incredible longevity of the pop art king Andy Warhol (1928-1987). “Tonight was a historic night for Christie’s and for the entire contemporary art market. The record-breaking sale of Warhol’s iconic portrait of Marilyn from the Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann is a testament to the strength, the vibrancy, and the overall excitement of the art market today”, Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of 20th and 21st Century Art, commented in a press release. This record-breaking sale also stresses the hunger collectors have for artworks of the 20th century and reminds us of Francis Bacon’s triptyque sale for $84.6 million at Christie’s New York in 2020. The works of the 20th century match the market prices of contemporary ones – Jeff Koons’ Rabbit was sold for $91 million at Christie’ New York back in 2019.
Andy Warhol remains one of the biggest stars at auctions. In 2013, the artist’s 1963 serigraph Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) went under the hammer for $105,4 million. Andy Warhol was above all a chameleon moving from one art form to another, whether it was painting, serigraphy, sculpture, filmmaking, or performance… He became a prominent figure in the world of art with his paintings of Campbell’s soup cans, but it wasn’t until Marilyn Monroe’s died in 1962 that he began to create colorful serigraphs of the American actress’ face. Inspired by a commercial made for Henry Hathaway’s 1953 film Niagara, the picture has become an iconic one in the history of art and has contributed to the myth about the Hollywood superstar.