Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is one of four plays by Andy Warhol entitled Shot Marilyns
Andy Warhol’s iconic portrait of actress Marilyn Monroe against a sage blue background, called Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, is the most expensive work by an American artist to sell at auction.
That’s all you need to know about the artwork — and where it got its name from.
How much did the painting sell at auction?
Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is the most expensive work by an American artist to have sold at auction after it went under the hammer today, Monday 10 May.
It sold for US$195m (£158m) – the previous record being held by Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose 1982 painting Untitled, featuring a skull-like face, sold at Sotheby’s in 2017 for US$111m (£90m).
Warhol’s portrait is also the most expensive 20th-century piece ever sold at auction, according to auction house Christie’s New York, where it was sold.
It came to Christie’s from the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zurich, which will receive all proceeds from the important sale.
The Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of children worldwide through the establishment of support systems focused on delivering health and education programs.
Christie’s said the piece was purchased Monday by an unnamed buyer.
Alex Rotter, Chair of Christie’s 20th and 21st Century Art, said: “This is an amazing award.
“Let it sink in, it’s something.”
Georg Frei, CEO of the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation, said in the run-up to the auction: “Andy Warhol’s Marilyn picture, now certainly more famous than the photo on which it is based, bears witness to her undiminished visual power in the new millennium.
“The spectacular portrait isolates the person and the star: Marilyn the woman is gone; the terrible circumstances of her life and death are forgotten.
“All that remains is the enigmatic smile that connects her with another mysterious smile of a distinguished lady, the Mona Lisa.”
When did Andy Warhol paint it?
Shot Sage Blue Marilyn was part of the Shot Marilyns series created by Warhol in 1964.
The Shot Marilyns consisted of four canvases, each 40 inches square, with a painting of Marilyn Monroe, each of which received a bullet through the forehead.
Each picture has a different colored background – red, orange, light blue and sage blue.
Why is it so iconic?
Once completed, Warhol stored the paintings at the Silver Factory, which was his studio on East 47th Street in Manhattan.
Dorothy Podber, a friend of Factory photographer and Warhol collaborator Billy Name, saw the recent paintings stacked in the studio and asked Warhol if she could photograph them.
Warhol assumed she meant with a camera and agreed – instead Podber took a small German pistol from her purse and photographed the stack of portraits.
Name said it “hit Marilyn right between the eyes.”
The works were therefore known at the time as “The Shot Marilyns”. Warhol had originally painted a fifth Marilyn against a turquoise background, however it was not included in the batch of portraits taken by Podber.
Following the incident, Podber was subsequently banned from the silver factory for life.
In an interview with Joy Bergmann, Name said, “After [Podber] Andy came over to me and said, “Please make sure Dorothy doesn’t come here anymore. She’s too scary.”
How much did the other Shot Marilyns sell for?
In 1967, the Blue Shot Marilyn was purchased by then 20-year-old business magnate Peter Brant. He bought the portrait for $5,000 at the time.
In conversation with the Wall Street Journal In 2013, Brant said, “That was a lot of money back then. A Cadillac cost $3,500.”
The Red Shot Marilyn was bought by Greek billionaire Philip Niarchos at Christie’s in 1994 for $3.63 million. Niarchos and his brother Spyros own their late father’s art collection, which includes Pablo Picasso’s self-portrait and Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait with a bandaged ear.
In 1998, the Orange Shot Marilyn was purchased for $17.3 million before being sold to American businessman Kenneth C. Griffin for an alleged price of $250 million.
The Turquoise Marilyn, which was not shot by Podber, was sold to hedge fund manager Steve Cohen in 2007 for around $80 million.
Cohen is one of the greatest art collectors in the world. His collection includes a Pollock drip painting and Damien Hirst’s 1991 work entitled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, which consisted of a tiger shark dipped in formaldehyde and preserved in a glass case.