Warhol’s ‘Blue Marilyn’ Breaks Record at Auction After $195m Sale

Andy Warhol’s iconic 1964 silk-screen portrait ‘Blue Marilyn’ is now the most expensive 20th century work of art ever sold, after being sold for a total of $195 million (£158 million). 

Blue Marilyn

Andy Warhol’s iconic 1964 silk-screen portrait ‘Blue Marilyn’ is now the most expensive 20th century work of art ever sold, after being sold for a total of $195 million (£158 million). 


The portrait, ‘Shot Sage Blue Marilyn’ (1964), is one of a series of five that were completed after Marilyn Monroe’s death in 1962. The sale, which was carried out via a Christie’s auction in New York, now also makes it the most expensive work of art ever sold by an American.

The auction concluded with a sale price of $170 million (£138 million), but rose to $195 million after fees and taxes were taken into account.

Such a fee smashes the previous record for a 20th century work of art being sold, which was held by Pablo Picasso’s ‘Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O)’. That sold for $179 million (£145 million) in 2015.

Christie's auctioneers

Christie’s Americas chairman Marc Porter (L) looks on as Christie’s chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Alex Rotter initially announces that Christie’s will offer Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn painting of Marilyn Monroe during its May Marquee Week of sales. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, a frequent collaborator of Warhol’s, had set the previous record for an artwork sold by an America artist after his ‘Untitled’ skull was sold for $110.5 million (£87.5 million).

The sale almost doubles the previous record set for a Warhol painting, which stood at $105.4 million (£80.5 million) when ‘Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)’ (1963) was sold at Sotheby’s in 2013.

One of Warhol’s most recognisable portraits, the original work is taken from a press photo of the famously glamorous (and troubled) actress’s 1953 film Niagara. Warhol created the 3-feet-square painting by using his famous silkscreen process.

The work is being sold from the estate of Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zurich, which is set up by the sibling founders of Thomas Ammann Fine Art – a Zurich-based gallery that champions art from the Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary era. All proceeds are set to go to their namesake foundation.

Andy Warhol and Basquiat. Warhol

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Warhol’s work has now broken the record previously set by Basquiat for the amount paid for a work by an American artist. 

In March, anticipating a major fee for the piece, Alex Rotter, Christie’s Chairman of 20th and 21st Century Art, described it as “The most significant painting to come to auction in a generation,” adding that it’s “the absolute pinnacle of American Pop and the promise of the American Dream encapsulating optimism, fragility, celebrity and iconography all at once.

“The painting transcends the genre of portraiture in America, superseding 20th century art and culture.” The major, record-breaking fee the work has now commanded appears to justify such lofty language.  


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