An iconic portrait of American star Marilyn Monroe was auctioned at Christie’s on Monday for $195 million, making it the most expensive 20th-century work of art ever sold at public auction. “Shot Sage Blue Merlin,” produced in 1964, two years after the glamorous Hollywood star’s death, sold for $195.04 million, including fees, in just four minutes to a packed room at the Christie’s headquarters in Manhattan.

According to Christie’s, before the sale, the picture was estimated to be worth around $200 million. Despite falling short of that threshold, it broke the previous record for a 20th-century work, before Pablo Picasso’s “Women of Algiers” sold for $179.4 million in 2015.

The all-time record for any work of art from any era sold at auction is held by Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” which sold for $450.3 million in November 2017. Andy Warhol’s silkscreen work is part from a group of his Marilyn Monroe paintings, which became known as the “Shots” series after a visitor to the Manhattan studio known as “The Factory” apparently fired a gun at him.

In a statement, Christie’s described the 40-inch by 40-inch portrait as “one of the rarest and most outstanding images in existence.” Alex Rotter, head of 20th and 21st century art at Christie’s, called the painting “the most important painting of the 20th century to come up for auction in a generation”.

“Andy Warhol’s Marilyn is the absolute pinnacle of American pop and the promise of the American Dream blends optimism, fragility, celebrity and iconography,” he said in a statement. After the actress died of a drug overdose in August 1962 at the age of just 36, Andy Warhol began silkscreening Marilyn Monroe.

In 1964, the pop artist created five Marilyn Monroe paintings, which were similar in size with different colored backgrounds. According to pop art folklore, four of them gained notoriety as female performance artists.


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